INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA Board of Governors reached a landmark decision Tuesday, voting unanimously to allow college athletes at its member schools to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.
The agreement could alter the future of college athletics, and it is now in the hands of NCAA President Mark Emmert and his staff to come up with changes in all three divisions to be made “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” In particular, the board has recommended the NCAA to protect recruiting to ensure players do not transfer or enroll at schools based on financial inducements tied to image and likeness profiting.
The board’s decision comes less than a month after California passed the “Fair Pay to Play Act” which will allow college athletes in its state to profit off their name, image and likeness starting on Jan. 1, 2023. Last month, the NCAA vowed to fight the legislation under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which only gives Congress the power to regulate commerce among states.
The vote Tuesday, however, signified a significant change in course. It recommends the changes be made as soon as possible.
In a statement, Ohio State president Michael V. Drake, who chairs the NCAA board, said the decision was made to embrace change to provide the best possible experience for student-athletes.
“Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education,” Drake said. “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.”
Outgoing Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany was among vocal critics of the Fair Pay to Play Act earlier this month at the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Media Day, saying allowing athletes to profit off name, image and likeness would lead to several “unintended consequences.” Several Big Ten basketball coaches, however, came out in support of the bill, including Minnesota’s Richard Pitino and Indiana’s Archie Miller.
Public sentiment toward college athletes receiving more compensation has increased as revenues through television and apparel deals have skyrocketed among the Power 5 conferences. The Big Ten generated $759 million in revenue in 2018 through TV and rights deals, doling out $54 million to its 12 longest-standing members.
The increased revenues have led to bloated coaching and administrative salaries. Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh is the highest-paid at his position in the Big Ten this season, making $7.5 million.
Currently, as compensation, NCAA athletes receive free room, board and tuition and a cost of attendance stipend that ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 per semester depending on the location of the school.
Michigan State senior point guard Cassius Winston, the Big Ten’s preseason basketball player of the year, doesn’t see an issue with players trying to profit off their fame.
“If guys can get paid for their brand, that’s all it is. People are building their brand now, building their name,” Winston said. “If you can get paid for your brand and your likeness and your image, then I don’t see a problem with it.”
In a 2015 New York Times article, Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins also said he felt athletes should be able to profit off their fame, with limits.
In addition to protecting recruiting, the NCAA Board of Governors offered the following regulations and guidelines in modernizing name, image and likeness rules:
• Making sure student-athletes are treated similarly to non-student athletes unless there is a compelling reason to differentiate.
• Maintaining priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.
• Ensure rules are transparent, focused and enforceable and facilitate fair and balanced competition.
• Make clear the distinction between collegiate and professional
• Make clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible.
• Reaffirm that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.
• Enhance principles of diversity, inclusion and gender equity.