Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger discuss the NCAA’s inquiry into the University of Miami and billionaire booster John Ruiz, and debate if the NCAA will come down on the school for violations of the NIL policy.
DAN WETZEL: NCAA enforcement begins an attempted NIL crackdown with Miami inquiry. NCAA plans to explore name, image, and likeness deals is no longer an idle threat. They spoke with Miami booster, John Ruiz, who’s company, LifeWallet, among others, has been very active in giving NIL deals to Miami players, and in some cases, transfers. And has maybe most famously, Nijel Pack, the Kansas State basketball player signed a two-year $800,000 deal.
I think there’s 115 athletes that Ruiz has done deals with, although a couple are at North Carolina and FIU, most are at Miami. All right, so you spoke to Ruiz, the NCAA saying this isn’t quite an investigation. But I guess the basic question is, is he is this a pay for play that is set up with the school or is this not? And Ruiz is quite confident he’s broken no rules. What is the latest, what do you got here?
ROSS DELLENGER: Well, we kind of knew this would happen. Like after the NCAA released last week, well, really a month ago, they released a new, kind of new guidelines clarifying NIL. And one of the big clarifications was a booster and booster collectives cannot be involved in recruiting and cannot provide recruiting inducements in the form of NIL. And
I remember being told then when those guidelines were released in early May that target number one was going to be Miami based on the very public comments and tweets by Ruiz. That’s what separates Miami I think from a lot of the other schools and the other collectives, is how brazen and public Ruiz’s been. So we kind of knew this was coming, that they would probably start with Miami and with Ruiz.
And I don’t know how to clarify, because some people I talked to did describe it as an investigation. Others described it as more of an inquiry. Ruiz thinks it was just some casual interview. He kind of acted like eh, the NCAA just dropped by to pick my brain. I’m not sure that is what it was. But I’m also not sure it was a full on investigation or, as of yet it could be called a full on investigation.
But they’re certainly interested in the Nijel Pack stuff, that’s what got everybody’s attention is him posting that before Pack even posted a commitment himself, let signed or anything like that or was, arrived at the school. And he posted that stuff about his deal, and that he had committed to the school. So that got everybody’s attention.
And I think some other people, maybe even players were interviewed too. And so it seems like this is a start of maybe what could be an investigation and what could be a multiple school kind of thing with the NCAA. I wouldn’t think Miami is going to be the only one.
DAN WETZEL: OK, so if there is a violation here, and that’s a big if. And again, Ruiz is not a dumb guy, so he believes he followed all the rules, whatever those rules are. What is it? Is it the coordination with the school? Would it be just giving a deal before someone even transfer? Like, what is the what’s the tipping point that could happen here?
ROSS DELLENGER: Yeah, I think it is an inducement. I don’t think it’s as much coordination with the school, because he is doing a lot of things, appears to be doing a lot of things on his own. In fact, I think that’s one of the issues, is the school is having maybe a little trouble policing him. And in those guidelines from a month ago when the NCAA clarified their NIL guidance, one of the things was, schools has to be responsible for their boosters, and if they’re not, they’ll be punished.
So the athlete eligibility is not a factor here. I don’t, the NCAA released that last week in a memo to schools that they won’t punish athletes and won’t pull their eligibility. But I think what they will do, is potentially find the school and force the school to disassociate the booster. However, you know, what’s going to follow if that does happen, Ruiz is going to sue them. There’s no doubt. Like, it would just go to court. And then they have to, then they have to prove that there was an inducement.
And as somebody told me, it can look like an inducement, smell like an inducement, but can you prove that it really is an inducement? Because these boosters like Ruiz, I mean, these are smart businessmen, like you mentioned. And they’ve got, he’s got a team of lawyers, man. He’s got like, he’s got a lot of lawyers working on this, and they’re dotting the I’s and T’s. They’ve got all this documentation of quid pro quo and following state law. So yeah, it seems like an inducement, but can you prove that? And that’s going to be difficult.