The NCAA has moved closer to allowing student-athletes to profit from endorsement deals, business ventures, personal appearances and social media concerning their names, images and likenesses.
The support for the rule change came Wednesday, April 29 at a meeting of the NCAA’s board of governors, which backed compensating athletes for sports- and non-sports-related activities, but made clear that no university or college should pay student-athletes for their participation.
“As we evolve, the [NCAA] will continue to identify the guardrails to further support student-athletes within the context of college sports and higher education,” said Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair. “In addition, we are mindful of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, college sports and students at large. We hope that modernized name, image and likeness rules will further assist college athletes during these unprecedented times and beyond.”
The NCAA appointed a group six months ago to figure out how to give student-athletes a chance to make money while also maintaining a distinction between college sports and professional leagues, according to an ESPN report.
The recommendations made by the group include allowing athletes to make money from advertisements, allowing them to hire agents, and requiring athletes to disclose the details of all endorsement contracts to their athletic department.
The board’s recommended changes will now move to the rules-making structure in each of the NCAA’s three divisions for further consideration. The divisions are expected to adopt new rules concerning name, image and likeness rules by January that would take effect at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.
The significant step towards compensation for student-athletes comes after decades of debate about whether revenue-generating college athletes should receive pay.
Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and president of Ohio State, said he supports allowing promotions and third-party endorsements for athletes but admitted such a move is uncharted territory.
However, critics such as former NCAA players and groups representing college athletes say the NCAA is late to its own party and they doubt it will truly put athletes’ interests first.
Jay Williams, an ESPN analyst who won a basketball national championship with Duke in 2001, said the NCAA’s change of heart isn’t out of kindness, but a response to the NBA’s new G League pathway program that allows top high school prospects to skip college and make money immediately before eventually landing in the NBA.
“Now we see the NCAA say we’re trying to expedite name, image and likeness, but that’s what it should’ve have been five years ago. They are just behind the 8-ball once again,” Williams said.
In September, California passed its “Fair Pay to Play” law, which prohibits punishment for college athletes who accept endorsement money from a third party using their likeness. California’s law is set to go in effect in 2023. Several other states have put forth similar legislation.
Ramogi Huma, a noted NCAA critic and founder of The National College Players Association, believes the push by the NCAA has been prompted by politicians who have created state laws challenging the current rules, ESPN reported.
Huma said he’s helping various states draft legislation and speaking with members of Congress about the issue. He said he believes most states will continue with their legislative efforts no matter what the NCAA proposes.
“I think most are going to continue full-steam ahead,” Huma told ESPN. “Even if the NCAA does everything that advocates want, states will still move forward to make sure it’s cemented in law and to make sure the NCAA can’t go back on things or leave any gray areas to interpret later.
“This is a make-or-break moment for the NCAA,” he said. “Time is running out. On the state level, they’re going to move forward.”