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NCAA Will Allow Athletes To Earn Money On Name, Image and Likeness

For the first time, the NCAA will allow athletes to earn money from their involvement in collegiate sports.

The NCAA has reversed its stance on athlete compensation, opening the door to athletes—and licensing companies—making money from their name, image, and likeness. The changes took place on July 1 this year.

The decision, which breaks with a long-held tradition, came just hours before new laws or executive orders were to be handed down in more than a dozen states. Those legislative efforts would have had the same effect, so the NCAA rule change is essentially a case of ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’. The new policy will remain in place until federal legislation or new NCAA rules are adopted.

“This is an important day for college athletes since they all are now able to take advantage of name, image and likeness opportunities,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “With the variety of state laws adopted across the country, we will continue to work with Congress to develop a solution that will provide clarity on a national level. The current environment, both legal and legislative, prevents us from providing a more permanent solution and the level of detail student-athletes deserve.”

The policy provides the following guidance to college athletes, recruits, families, and member schools:

  • Individuals can engage in NIL (name,  image, likeness) activities that are consistent with state laws where the school is located. Colleges and universities may be a resource for state law questions.
  • College athletes who attend a school in a state without a NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to NIL.
  • Individuals can use a professional services provider for NIL activities.
  • Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.

“Today, NCAA members voted to allow college athletes to benefit from name, image and likeness opportunities, no matter where their school is located,” said Division I Board of Director’s Chair Denise Trauth, president, Texas State. “With this interim solution in place, we will continue to work with Congress to adopt federal legislation to support student-athletes.”

The NCAA says that while the policy opens the door to NIL opportunities, the association is working to ensure the policy avoids the idea of ‘pay-for-play’ and improprieties tied to choosing to attend a particular school. Those rules still remain in effect.

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“The new policy preserves the fact college sports are not pay-for-play,” said Division II Presidents Council Chair Sandra Jordan, chancellor, the University of South Carolina, Aiken. “It also reinforces key principles of fairness and integrity across the NCAA and maintains rules prohibiting improper recruiting inducements. It’s important any new rules maintain these principles.”

However, for players and the companies or agencies that represent them, the policy change will act to level the playing field when it comes to the revenues enjoyed by the NCAA and its members. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the total revenue from all NCAA athletics departments rang in at an astounding $18.9 billion, but athletes saw very little of that money.

The new policy is temporary, and is expected to be replaced by federal legislation said Division III Presidents Council Chair Fayneese Miller. “The new interim policy provides college athletes and their families some sense of clarity around name, image and likeness, but we are committed to doing more,” Miller said. “We need to continue working with Congress for a more permanent solution.”

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