According to the official website of the NCAA, the Board of Governors (“Board”) supported rule changes to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related to and separate from athletics. These recommendations will now move to the rules-making structure in each of the NCAA’s three divisions for further consideration and will likely take effect at the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.
With pressure mounting from politicians, and other leagues beginning to poach their prospective athletes, the NCAA was forced to cave to the mob and begin actively pursuing ways to allow student-athletes to get paid. Now, it looks as if actual “pay for play” is not in any immediate plans as the board emphasized that at no point should a school pay student-athletes for “Name, Image and Likeness” (“NIL”) activities. However, the new rules would allow Compensation for third-party endorsements related to athletics, without school or conference involvement, and compensation for other student-athlete opportunities, such as social media, new businesses, and personal appearances, without institutional involvement or the use of trademarks/logos.
While these recommendations are rather vague and much clear legislation is required, this is a significant step for the NCAA and student-athletes. Currently, a student-athlete could not get paid for his social media accounts or even make money signing autographs at a local restaurant. However, the Board’s suggestions would allow players to profit off their NIL. In 2017, University of Central Florida Kicker, Donald De La Haye, ran a YouTube channel that had over 90,000 subscribers. The channel had videos which featured De La Haye performing trick shots. The NCAA ruled him ineligible after he refused to stop the monetization of his videos and he eventually lost his scholarship. The NCAA believed his videos were a direct violation to its rule that prohibits student-athletes from using their status to earn money. Under these new suggestions, De La Haye would be allowed to profit off the videos as long as he did not use any NCAA trademarks or logos. Further, there are plenty of student-athletes, specifically basketball and football players, who have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on various social media platforms. These players could now earn money off these accounts.
Sadly, unless the NCAA allows their athletes to unionize, there will not be a NCAA football video game in the future. However, athletes now have the ability to sign agents to help them make key financial decisions. The NCAA will install “guardrails” which will be heavily regulated, but good agents can be beneficial in the lives of an athlete as they can sometimes be mentors or even role models.
While the NCAA denotes players as “student-athletes”, their rules governing collegiate athletics have always signified that they are ‘athletes’ first. NCAA student-athletes are students first and ought to be treated as such meaning they should have the same liberties to profit off their NIL. The recent recommendations demonstrate that the NCAA is moving toward equity in the way both students and student-athletes can make money. While the NCAA was pressured by several external forces, the old adage ‘better late than never’ is sufficient in this situation. Student-athletes won’t be directly paid anytime soon by their prospective universities, but potentially having the ability to profit off their NIL will make collegiate athletics far more appealing.