When Burner was introduced as an app for iPhones and Android phones, it effectively made the NCAA’s phone call limits obsolete. Sure, coaches could always use home phones, pay phones, or more traditional prepaid burner phones. But the first was riskier (NCAA could always demand home phone records) and the latter two required more effort and cost. Burner put the ability to generate unlimited untraceable phone numbers right on a coach’s smartphone, and for a fraction of the cost with no physical evidence. In short, Burner made it easy to circumvent an already unenforceable rule.
Yesterday Google announced that it was adding a new feature to its Google Wallet service: the ability to attach money to email. By simply clicking a button in Gmail, users will be able to send up to $10,000 to anyone in the world, so long as they have or are willing to sign up for a Google Wallet account. Like Burner, this seems to have taken an NCAA rule that was already hard to catch violators and removed many of the headaches of using cash.
Unfortunately, this is not that sort of innovation in impermissible payments to players. For starters, it is harder to send the money. Coaches (or boosters or anyone else who wants to funnel money to athletes) must convince players to set up a Google Wallet account and walk them through linking it to a bank account to easily access the money. Email is also inherently more traceable than an envelope mailed to a player.
But more importantly, both the coach and the player must at some point pass the money through an account linked to their identity. A credit report would give the NCAA enough information to find even accounts that a coach or recruit keeps separate just for this purpose. And in the case of a coach or athlete, the NCAA would be able to compel them to provide a credit report as part of an NCAA investigation.
It might be easier, but using Google Wallet to attach money to email is not untraceable enough to make it a good substitute for cash. Bitcoin might one day be the answer, but at the moment it suffers from wild fluctuations in value, is even more difficult to use, and the same core problem: passing the money through an account the NCAA can find. If you want the NCAA to throw up its hands and give up on extra benefit rules, we’re still waiting for a game changer that might prompt that.