Baker acknowledged a shift in the NCAA’s stance towards sports betting, which had long been vehemently opposed. He sees it as a big opportunity instead.
“That’s a major opportunity, right in front of us. We have a major opportunity to get into the sports betting space and recognize and understand between social media and 31 states legalizing it and anybody who has a phone being able to bet from any place they want and two-thirds to almost three quarters of all people between the ages of 18 and 22 betting on sports.”
At the same time, he voiced his concerns about the influence of sports betting on college athletes.
“The truth is, if there are lots of kids on campus betting on college sports and betting on the teams on their campus, this puts student-athletes in a very difficult position,” Baker said, as quoted by USA Today.
“[The NCAA needs to] create a program that we hope we’re going to get everybody to endorse around helping them develop the tools and techniques [the athletes are] going to need to deal with this stuff.”
Pushing for NIL Regulation
Advocating for federal legislation on college athletes’ ability to monetize NIL, Baker emphasized the need for prompt action. With the 2024 election cycle looming, he stressed that a federal law regarding NIL would ideally be passed this year.
Baker outlined key components that the NCAA desires in a NIL bill, including establishing a registry for NIL deal terms, certification of agents and implementing a uniform standard contract.
Recognizing the potential for inaction by Congress, he asserted the need for a framework.
“One way or another, I believe there needs to be a framework in place, whether it’s ours or a congressionally mandated one, by the end of the year,” said Baker.
Securing favorable media rights deals
In addition to NIL legislation and sports betting in states like Arizona, Baker discussed the NCAA’s upcoming negotiations for media rights to championships in sports beyond men’s basketball.
As the NCAA contract with ESPN for championships other than men’s basketball nears its end, Baker highlighted the immense potential for college sports in the evolving media landscape.
He emphasized the need to explore various revenue-raising opportunities and hinted at the possibility of enhancing the long-term deal for the men’s basketball tournament.
Baker also did not shy away from critiquing the NCAA’s handling of NIL rules before his tenure. He asserted that the absence of a framework and lack of transparency and accountability were detrimental to all students/athletes as well as the institutions they represent.
Regarding the widespread dissatisfaction with the current system, Baker expressed optimism about Congress’ interest in rectifying the situation. Feedback from lawmakers across the political spectrum indicated a growing consensus that the status quo was unsustainable.
The issue of NIL legislation extends beyond federal discussions. California, as the first state to pass an NIL law, poses a potential challenge to the NCAA’s authority. The state Assembly has already approved a bill enabling revenue-sharing payments for college athletes, with the legislation now pending in the state Senate.
Baker conveyed his optimism by the reception of his proposals on Capitol Hill, noting bipartisan support for change.
As the NCAA president, Baker has been actively engaging with lawmakers, advocating for a national-level solution to streamline varying state regulations.