The NCAA took a historic step Tuesday in support of allowing student-athletes to be paid for lucrative endorsements and other potentially profitable opportunities that come with the fame they receive from playing college sports, but the details remain murky about when college players will be able to cash in on their names, images and likenesses.
The NCAA’s top governing board voted unanimously to direct its three divisions to come up with updates to relevant bylaws and policies that must be adopted by January 2021 to pave the way for college athlete compensation.
“As a national governing body, the NCAA is uniquely positioned to modify its rules to ensure fairness and a level playing field for student-athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said.
But the NCAA's decision to move forward with creating a still-undefined compensation framework "consistent with the collegiate model" may also bolster efforts in Congress to pursue bipartisan legislation on the issue — an effort pushed by Rep. Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, and Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican.
The NCAA Board of Governors has voted unanimously to allow amateur athletes to cash in on their name, image and likeness "in a manner consiste…
"While their words are promising, they have used words in the past to deny equity and basic constitutional rights for student-athletes," Walker, who is the lead sponsor of the legislation, said after the NCAA announcement. "The NCAA is on the clock, and while they are, we’re going to keep working toward the passage of the Student-Athlete Equity Act to make sure their words are forced into action."
Walker and Richmond's bill, introduced in March, would amend the federal tax code to remove a restriction on student-athletes using or profiting from the use of their names, images and likenesses, effectively forcing the NCAA to overhaul its rules and stick to whatever changes are made or face financial penalties.
Richmond called Tuesday's announcement from the NCAA a "necessary step forward."
“Since its inception, the NCAA and collegiate sports programs have profited immensely off of student-athletes who have worked tirelessly to balance their sports and academic obligations," he said.
Avery Brundage was uncompromising when it came to amateurism.
Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake, chairman of the NCAA board, said in a news release that the landmark vote — the league's first formally in support of athlete compensation — showed it’s willing to embrace the effort.
“Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships," he said.
But he stressed to The Associated Press that the changes will come with limitations.
"The board is emphasizing that change must be consistent with the values of college sports and higher education and not turn student-athletes into employees of institutions," Drake told the AP.
When California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Monday that allowed California college athletes to earn money by using their names, images and…
Last month, California became the first state to pass a law that will allow college athletes to make money off their names, images and likenesses, beginning in 2023. That’s touched off a wave in states across the country who have also sought to stop the NCAA’s rule that has barred athletes from receiving direct compensation.
On Tuesday morning, before the NCAA's announcement, the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee released a statement in reference to name, image and likeness rules. The 32-person panel, which has voting privileges on 19 NCAA committees, encouraged people to think about how new legislation will affect student-athletes in non-revenue sports and consider unintended consequences, including recruiting and exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises.
"No one is talking about what the proposals will do for limited resource institutions, historically black colleges and universities, or international student-athletes," the statement said, adding "the biggest impact could be on scholarships for equivalency sports, which are predominantly women’s teams."
"We urge the NCAA to move quickly to propose and implement a solution to this problem that has been brushed aside for far too long," the student-athlete advisory committee said. "But they also need to be given some time and trust to do so, so that they can preserve the values and principles that keep college athletics alive. "
LSU football coach Ed Orgeron said Tuesday he believes players should profit from their name, image and likeness, but he added there needs to be a cap.
"This thing looks like it's rolling fast," Orgeron said. "I do believe (LSU athletic director) Scott Woodward's going to be on top of it. I think our university is going to be on top of it and whatever we have to do with compete with everybody else, we're going to do."
After the NCAA's announcement, Walker said the move provides backing to the federal effort, which is seeking a uniform guideline instead of a piecemeal, state-by-state approach.
“We clearly have the NCAA’s attention," Walker said.
Walker and Richmond held a round-table discussion at the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago that featured ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who played for Duke University, and other former college athletes.
U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, former presidential candidate and another major supporter of the Student-Equity Act, said it’s only a matter of time until federal legislation is adopted.
“The reality is, Congress is going to act,” Romney said during the hearing on the NCAA policy. “We’re coming for you.”
The NCAA has argued against turning college sports into an effective minor league for professional sports. Opponents also have argued that it distracts from the education-focused mission of colleges.
But Bilas said he disagrees with that premise.
"This isn’t amateur sports. Amateur sports don't make billions of dollars. Amateur sports don’t pay their coaches millions of dollars. They don’t have multibillion-dollar TV deals and have their games on every single night. They don’t have apparel deals where players are unpaid billboards,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with a college athlete monetizing his or her name, image and likeness.”