In turnaround financial victory for student athletes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced Tuesday that college athletes will be allowed to profit from their name, image and likeness following a unanimous vote by the NCAA board.
In a news release, NCAA President Mark Emmert said, “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. The board’s action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”
This week’s vote comes a month after California passed a senate bill to allow student athletes to sign with licensed agents and prevent universities in California from punishing them for profiting off their name, image, and likeness (NIL). Before Tuesday’s vote, NCAA had opposed California’s decision.
The California bill, named the ‘Fair Pay to Play’ Act, which was set to go into effect January 2023, inspired other states to initiate similar legislation to allow student athletes to profit from their collegiate sports careers.
California’s decision created challenges for colleges and universities that belong to the NCAA because it contradicted long-standing NCAA rules that bar college athletes from profiting from their college sports career.
Following the California ruling, the NCAA released a statement to express concern that future “Fair Pay to Play” state laws allowing student athletes to profit from their NIL may create conflicts with other universities nationwide.
In its Tuesday news release, NCAA explained it was overturning its previous ban on allowing student athletes to profit from their sports careers because: “As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide.”
Borderzine spoke to New Mexico State University Athletic Director, Mario Moccia, before the NCAA announced their new guidelines. Moccia said he favored creating a separate committee to resolve any conflicts that arise from state bills that contradict NCAA rules.
“I certainly am not anti-helping student athletes from a financial standpoint, I just think it has to be done in a uniformed and proper way,” Moccia said. “The NCAA is its own governing body so that can’t necessarily supersede that.”
The NCAA created a task force that has met over the last few months to address the specific problems and conflicts that might arise from state passage of “Fair Pay to Play” laws. The task force presented its first progress report to the full board Tuesday but is still going to continue to gather feedback through April.
Michael V. Drake, chair of the NCAA board and president of The Ohio State University, said in the press release: “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.”
While the California senate bill has received a lot of attention from college sports programs in other parts of the country, the discussion of an athlete’s right to “fair pay” has been controversial for several years.
Compensation for NIL was first argued in 2014 when Ed O’Bannon, former UCLA men’s basketball star and NCAA National Championship Most Valuable Player, sued the NCAA after having seen his own likeness in an NCAA licensed video game.
Although the NCAA “owns” a student athlete’s name, image and likeness, an NIL release form students are required to sign does not authorize the organization to use the athletes’ name, image or likeness for third-party commercial ventures, such as video games.
The NCAA also had maintained a strictly enforced bylaw that allowed them to ban any school from NCAA competition for two years if it is determined that the school had allowed one of its student athletes to license his or her NIL.
In an interview before Tuesday’s decision, UTEP Athletic Director Jim Senter said NIL restrictions were complicated.
“What if a student athlete went out and sold a sponsorship using their NIL and it is tied to something the university feels would be inappropriate?” he asked. “There’s all these things that are out there that no one has really thought through.”
The new guidelines released by the NCAA specify that student athletes profiting from their NIL must do so “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”
After the guidelines were released, Senter said he didn’t have anything more to add. “It is still too early for us to know how all of this will be implemented,” he said.
In the previous interview, Senter said he believes that athletes are compensated fairly through cost of tuition and scholarships but understands why certain athletes might want to profit outside of that.
“We’re doing a lot for student athletes already. I see both sides of the coin,” he said.
“I think it’s unfair that student athletes don’t have the ability to profit some from the talents and the skills and abilities that they have. The flip side is that they are profiting from those things because we’re providing them with a scholarship, room, board, books, fees, tuition,” Senter said.
UTEP Mechanical Engineering student Andrew Salas doesn’t believe scholarships and travel costs are enough compensation for student athletes who help bring in revenue and attention to their schools.
“While student athletes at D-1 universities are provided scholarships, airfare and travel to games, as well as access to athletic facilities, all of this is necessary for them to just be on the team…,” he said.
“None of this accounts for any additional revenue brought in by their name and likeness, and there needs to be fairness in the transaction of acquiring student athletes for a university program,” he added.