The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) took a significant step Wednesday toward allowing student-athletes to earn money for endorsements and promotions.
The NCAA announced members decided to move forward with a plan to scrap a long-standing policy barring players to receive compensation for endorsements and a host of other activities involving social media, businesses they have started, and personal appearances.
Ohio State University Chairman and President Michael Drake said in a statement, “Throughout our efforts to enhance support for college athletes, the NCAA has relied upon considerable feedback from and the engagement of our members, including numerous student-athletes, from all three divisions. Allowing promotions and third-party endorsements is uncharted territory.”
The association’s Board directed all three divisions to consider appropriate rules changes based on recommendations from its Federal and State Legislation Working Group. The divisions are expected to adopt new name, image and likeness rules by January to take effect at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.
Additionally, the NCAA will restrict “any future name, image and likeness activities” including, according to the statement, “name, image and likeness activities that would be considered pay for play; no school or conference involvement; no use of name, image and likeness for recruiting by schools or boosters; and the regulation of agents and advisors.”
In October, the association’s Board agreed on a list of “guiding principles” aimed at making sure changes going forward “support college sports as a part of higher education.”
The principles include:
- Assure student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate.
- Maintain the priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.
- Ensure rules are transparent, focused and enforceable and facilitate fair and balanced competition.
- Make clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities.
- Make clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible.
- Reaffirm that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.
- Enhance principles of diversity, inclusion and gender equity.
- Protect the recruiting environment and prohibit inducements to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution.
The major policy shift came after report from the NCAA’s Federal and State Legislation Working Group to inform its recommendations.
“The NCAA’s work to modernize name, image and likeness continues, and we plan to make these important changes on the original timeline, no later than January 2021,” said Gene Smith, Ohio State senior vice president and athletics director and working group co-chair. “The board’s decision today provides further guidance to each division as they create and adopt appropriate rules changes.”
In its report, the working group recognized that the rules needed to accomplish the modifications may differ by division and stressed the need for appropriate regulation in the future.
The board also discussed the potential challenges to modernizing rules posed by outside legal and legislative factors that could interfere with the NCAA’s ability to take meaningful action. The steps include the following:
- Ensuring federal preemption over state name, image and likeness laws.
- Establishing a “safe harbor” for the Association to provide protection against lawsuits filed for name, image and likeness rules.
- Safeguarding the non-employment status of student-athletes.
- Maintaining the distinction between college athletes and professional athletes.
- Upholding the NCAA’s values, including diversity, inclusion and gender equity.
“The evolving legal and legislative landscape around these issues not only could undermine college sports as a part of higher education but also significantly limit the NCAA’s ability to meet the needs of college athletes moving forward,” Drake said.
California was first state to pass a bill into law that blocked NCAA schools from interfering with college athletes’ efforts earn an income related to their athletic activities in school.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill while appearing on NBA star LeBron James’ HBO show “The Shop,” calling the current system of unpaid athletes “a bankrupt model.”
The California legislation, which takes effect in 2023, allows players to be paid for endorsement deals and prohibits the NCAA and the schools from banning those compensated athletes.
The NCAA is the largest student-athlete organization in the United States, with 450,000 athletes at more than 1,200 schools nationwide.
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Samantha Witwer is a reporter at The Ohio Star.
Photo “NCAA National Offices” by Momoneymoproblemz. CC BY-SA 4.0.