The billionaire Miami booster is the first target of the NCAA’s NIL investigations

Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger discuss NCAA investigation into University of Miami and billionaire thruster John Ruiz, and debate whether NCAA will take on school for policy violation NILE.

Video Transcript


DAN WETZEL: NCAA law enforcement launches NIL crackdown attempt with Miami investigation. The NCAA plans to explore name, image and likeness agreements is no longer an unnecessary threat. They spoke with Miami booster John Ruiz, whose company, LifeWallet, among others, has been very active in offering Miami players NIL deals and, in some cases, transfers. And perhaps most famously, Kansas State basketball player Nijel Pack signed a two-year, $800,000 contract.

I think there are 115 athletes Ruiz has deals with, although a few are in North Carolina and FIU, most are in Miami. Alright, so you talked to Ruiz, NCAA saying it’s not quite an investigation. But I guess the basic question is, is it a pay-to-play that’s set up with the school or not? And Ruiz is completely convinced that he didn’t break any rules. What’s the latest, what do you have here?

ROSS DELLENGER: Well, we kind of knew that would happen. Like after the NCAA released last week, well, really a month ago they released a new kind of new guidance clarifying NIL. And one of the big clarifications was a recall and recall collectives cannot be involved in recruiting and cannot provide recruiting incentives in the form of NIL. And

I remember being told then, when those guidelines were released in early May, that the number one target was going to be Miami based on Ruiz’s very public comments and tweets. That’s what separates Miami, I think, from a lot of other schools and other collectives, is how cheeky and public Ruiz has been. So we knew that was coming, that they would probably start with Miami and Ruiz.

And I don’t know how to clarify, because some people I’ve spoken to have described it as an investigation. Others described it as more of an investigation. Ruiz thinks it was just a casual interview. He kind of acted like uh, the NCAA just came by to get my brains out. I’m not sure that was it. But I’m also not sure it was a full investigation or, for now, you could call it a full investigation.

But they’re definitely interested in Nijel Pack’s stuff that’s what caught everyone’s attention is that he posted this before Pack even posted a pledge himself, let alone signed or something like that or was, arrived at school. And he posted this stuff about his contract, and that he was committed to school. So it caught everyone’s attention.

And I think other people, maybe even players, were also interviewed. And so it looks like maybe this is the start of what could be an investigation and what could be a multi-school kind of thing with the NCAA. I don’t think Miami is going to be alone.

DAN WETZEL: OK, so if there’s a violation here, and that’s a big if. And again, Ruiz is not an idiot, so he thinks he followed all the rules, whatever they were. What is that? Is it the coordination with the school? Would it just be giving an agreement even before someone is transferred? Like, what is the tipping point that could happen here?

ROSS DELLENGER: Yes, I think it’s an incentive. I don’t think it’s as much a coordination with the school, because he does a lot of things, seems to do a lot of things on his own. In fact, I think that’s one of the problems is that the school maybe has a little trouble controlling it. And in those guidelines from a month ago, when the NCAA clarified its NIL guidelines, one of the things was that schools have to be responsible for their boosters, and if they’re not, they’ll be punished.

Athlete eligibility is therefore not a factor here. I don’t know, the NCAA issued a memo to schools last week that it will not punish athletes or revoke their eligibility. But I think what they’re going to do is potentially find the school and force the school to unlink the booster. However, you know, what’s next if that happens, Ruiz is going to sue them. There is no doubt. Like, he would just go to court. And then they have to, then they have to prove that there was incitement.

And as someone told me, it may look like an incitement, feel like an incitement, but can you prove that it really is an incitement? Because these boosters like Ruiz, I mean, they’re smart businessmen, like you mentioned. And they have, he has a team of lawyers, man. He’s like, he’s got a lot of lawyers working on this, and they’re dotting the i’s and the t’s. They have all this documentation about counterparties and compliance with state law. So yes, it sounds like an incentive, but can you prove it? And it’s going to be difficult.

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