NCAA Board Of Governors Announces Wide-Ranging Support For Student-Athlete NIL Compensation
With its hand forced by a number of state initiatives to allow payment to college student-athletes for their name, image and likeness (NIL), the NCAA Board of Governors (BOG) is supporting a number of rule changes that will permit those and other money-making activities for those playing on their courts and fields of competition.
The BOG supports payments for endorsements, social media branding, personal appearances and student-owned business opportunities among others – a huge departure from previous rules that banned all such compensation.
There are some limits, most notably that the student-athletes will not be allowed to use any school logos or trademarks in their endeavors, although they can identify themselves, their school and the sport they play. Additionally, schools cannot pay the student-athletes for any such opportunities, nor could they use existing student-athletes in recruiting or as a conduit for any other advertising. Boosters, while able to establish NIL deals with student-athletes, likewise would not be able to use them in any recruitment efforts.
Student-athletes will be able to hire agents to help them find and develop compensation avenues – another huge rift in the previous Maginot Line drawn by the NCAA. Agents would reportedly not be able to negotiate with professional sports teams while their clients remained in college, although details on that remain to be developed.
Without question, this is merely the first step on the path to opening the NIL gates. Specific rules will have to be laid down, then submitted to each NCAA division (I, II and III) for approval. While some rules could be implemented in this calendar year, a formal vote on the rules changes are expected in January, 2021.
Several guiding principles and “guardrails” were laid out by the NCAA’s Federal and State Legislation Working Group for the new rules. Most are clearly aimed at having one governing set of rules for NCAA athletics, rather than a mishmash of state laws that would likely conflict with one another. Some of those guidelines include:
- Making clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible. Reaffirming that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.
- Protecting the recruiting environment and prohibiting inducements to select, remain at or transfer to a specific institution.
- 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 nonemployment status of student-athletes.
- Maintaining the distinction between college athletes and professional athletes.
- Upholding the NCAA’s values, including diversity, inclusion and gender equity.
“As we evolve, the Association will continue to identify the guardrails to further support student-athletes within the context of college sports and higher education,” said Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair. “In addition, we are mindful of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, college sports and students at large. We hope that modernized name, image and likeness rules will further assist college athletes during these unprecedented times and beyond.”
Getting federal buy-in and support for the proposed legislation is critical, and was the focus of work by the NCAA’s Presidential Subcommittee on Congressional Action – an adjunct to the Federal and State Legislation Working Group.
“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,” working group chair Michael V. Drake said. “We must continue to engage with Congress in order to secure the appropriate legal and legislative framework to modernize our rules around name, image and likeness. We will do so in a way that underscores the Association’s mission to oversee and protect college athletics and college athletes on a national scale.”
There are many questions to be answered, of course, as the specific legislation is created. Enforcement against violators who offer NIL opportunities in return for signing at or remaining at a particular school is just one, especially given the NCAA’s wholly inconsistent history in dealing with recruiting violations in the past.