Jon Infante of the Bylaw Blog reported today that the NCAA has ruled that institutions can no longer subscribe to Rivals.com affiliated sites. The rationale "is that Rivals provides video of nonscholastic competition that is not available to the general public." By that definition, I think the ban doesn't just cover Rivals but any service that charges money for access to film from anything that's not a high school game.
This is big news because it shows that the NCAA is wasting little time in evaluating what constitutes a scouting service in the wake of the Will Lyles scandal at Oregon. It also matters because it's no secret that many, if not all, programs use services like Rivals and Scout to some degree in their recruiting regimens. They all say that they don't count stars and things like that, but they do at least use the film that those sites provide.
Based on the rationale that Infante provided, it would figure that all Rivals (and other sites that hide film behind paywalls) needs to do is make all of its film free in order to allow programs to keep their subscriptions. However if all film became free, then all the programs would get for their subscription money is access to articles that coaches allegedly don't use and message boards for the rumor mill.
This ruling is a shot across the bow of Rivals's business model to some extent, and it shows that the NCAA is actively trying to figure out what it thinks of recruiting services. I don't know whether this is a step down the road towards putting street agents who use "scouting services" as a front out of business, but it's the first time I can think of that shows that the NCAA does think about the web-based businesses that operate based on recruiting.
The plot thickens. According to CBS's Bryan Fischer, "Every single school just had to report a secondary violation 'if they were or ever have been subscribed' to Rivals."
The academic and membership affairs staff determined that it is not permissible for an institution to obtain video (e.g., live streaming video, recorded video) of any nonscholastic activities, including regular game and all-star competition, or any summer camp or clinic competition, through a subscription fee or other associated fee paid to a recruiting or scouting service. Further, it is not permissible to obtain any nonscholastic video that is available only to a select group of individuals (e.g., coaches), even if there is no charge associated with such individuals accessing the video.
Yahoo!, who owns Rivals, issued a statement to CBS Sports when asked for comment:
"We are in discussions with the NCAA in regards to this issue. This, in no way, affects Rivals.com's ability to provide content to our subscribers nor the general public."
Basically, the NCAA will tell Yahoo!/Rivals what it needs to un-pay wall in order to become kosher again, and it will do that. Ultimately, I think this story will have a swift and easy conclusion in that way.