ST. PETERSBURG — Here’s the news:The NCAA is moving ahead with a potentially historic modification to rules that would allow student-athletes to benefit financially from their names and likeness while maintaining their college eligibility.Now, here’s the warning:Don’t trust the NCAA.If that sounds cynical, I apologize. It was meant to sound suspicious, derisive and mocking.Seriously, this news should not be construed as NCAA leaders finally seeing the light. It’s more like they saw the legislation.The NCAA has fought this kind of breakthrough for decades with hysterical warnings that our idyllic world of pep rallies and lettermen’s sweaters would be destroyed if student-athletes were somehow allowed to make money. Never mind that NCAA and university higher-ups had already monetized college athletics to the point that even the most hapless football coaches have become millionaires.And the NCAA would have been happy to continue with this sham if lawmakers in California hadn’t recently passed legislation that would allow college athletes to earn money based off their names beginning in 2023. Other states began pursuing similar legislation, including Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis is on board with the plan.Suddenly, the NCAA began re-thinking its rigid position. All you need to know about the organization’s disingenuous maneuver was contained in the first nine words of the news release touting the governing board’s unanimous vote on Tuesday:“In the Association’s continuing efforts to support college athletes … ’’The NCAA has been around for more than 100 years and has wielded enormous — and often unforgiving — power over athletes in dire financial situations, but has just realized this week that there might be a better way to “support college athletes?" I believe the word poppycock was invented for this exact moment.Campus bars are filled with stories of the NCAA treating students with the bureaucratic equivalent of a thumbscrew. Just two months ago, football player Brock Hoffman’s request for a transfer from Coastal Carolina to Virginia Tech due to a family medical hardship was denied by the NCAA. Hoffman’s mother had a non-cancerous brain tumor removed and was deaf in her left ear and going blind in her left eye. The transfer would have cut Hoffman’s commute home in half, and allowed him to help her with medical appointments.The NCAA cited some technicalities — and one news report suggested the organization questioned the severity of his mother’s condition — in denying his eligibility.But, hey, competitive integrity was preserved, right?The problem is the NCAA will create whatever rationalization necessary when it comes to keeping the money flowing in from television networks, sponsors and boosters. The welfare of the athlete in the classroom takes a backseat when there are bucks to be made with longer seasons, cross-country travel or prime time kickoffs.Twenty years ago, a group of academics met at Drake University in Iowa to discuss the outsized influence of athletics on college campuses. Not surprisingly the Drake Group, as it has become known, has been a vocal critic of the NCAA’s hypocrisy. A position paper written in 2010 includes a concise rebuke of the NCAA’s crackdown on eligibility violations:“The NCAA and its member institutions have virtually forced the commission of these crimes by imposing compensation restrictions on athletes under the guise of amateur status … "Amateur'' is nothing more than an NCAA overly broad mechanism that allows multi-million-dollar coaches and extraordinarily well-compensated athletic directors to earn lavish salaries and perks while institutions of higher education receive tax deductible donations from exploiting the value of collegiate athletes they refuse to allow the same earning rights as other students.’’All of which brings us back to this week’s news. And the basis for skepticism.Even while announcing the possibility of modifying rules, some NCAA officials questioned how far the California law had gone. In other words, the NCAA is only considering these changes in order to get in front of legislation and shape any modifications to fit its idea of amateur athletics.Sorry, but it’s too late for that.Florida and other states should continue moving forward with legislation. If it lines up with the NCAA, that’s great. If it doesn’t, the NCAA does not get to complain.University officials have had decades to reconsider the definition of a student-athlete as college sports has exploded into a billion-dollar industry.Their eligibility to decide this issue has run out. Contact John Romano at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow @romano_tbtimes.