MILWAUKEE -- The NCAA took a major step Tuesday, Oct. 29 toward allowing college athletes to cash in on their fame, voting to permit them to "benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness."
The nation's largest governing body for college sports and its member schools now must figure out how to allow athletes to profit — something they have fought against doing for years — while still maintaining rules regarding amateurism. The NCAA Board of Governors, meeting at Emory University in Atlanta, directed each of the NCAA's three divisions to create the necessary new rules immediately and have them in place no later than January 2021.
Board chair Michael Drake, the president of Ohio State University, said the NCAA must embrace change and modernize "to provide the best possible experience for college athletes." But such changes will come with limitations, he said.
It's a move Marquette University Athletic Director Bill Scholl said he supports.
"In general, yes, I'm very supportive of this being a positive step forward," said Scholl.
A group of NCAA administrators has been exploring since May the ways in which athletes could be allowed to receive compensation for the use of their names, images, and likenesses. The working group, led by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, presented a status report Tuesday to the university presidents who make up the Board of Governors. Smith and Ackerman's group laid out principles and guidelines, endorsed by the board, to be followed as NCAA members go about crafting new rules and tweaking existing ones.
Ackerman and Smith said the challenges lie in determining what regulations need to be set in place; what markets athletes should be allowed to access; what entities and individuals they should be permitted to work with; and whether the schools themselves could provide funds to athletes through licensing deals.
The NCAA's move came a month after California passed a law that would make it illegal for NCAA schools to prohibit college athletes from making money on endorsements, autograph signings and social media advertising, among other activities. The California law goes into effect in 2023. More than a dozen states have followed with similar legislation, some of which could be on the books as soon as next year. The NCAA has said California's law is unconstitutional, and any states that pass similar legislation could see their athletes and schools being declared ineligible to compete. But the board also said it hopes to reach a resolution with states without going to court.
"The momentum has been building and I think people have been talking a long time about (name, image, likeness) being one of the ways we can enhance the student-athlete experience," said Scholl.
Scholl noted it was still early in the process, and there was still plenty to figure out.
"Like anything, the devil is in the details to a degree," said Scholl. "There's got to be some guardrails."
Scholl said it's not about creating a "pay to play" system.
"This is a student-athlete being able to monetize their social media site, for example," said Scholl. "This isn't, 'We'll pay you X amount of money to play basketball at Marquette.'"
Scholl said NCAA officials were seeking input from schools like Marquette on how to shape those restrictions, with a goal of avoiding situations like students signing contracts that conflict with ones already signed by universities.
"I think that's exactly the kind of situation we have to think our way through and make sure it's a win-win for everybody," said Scholl.
NCAA rules allow for an athletic scholarship that covers tuition, room and board, books, and a cost-of-attendance stipend. The cost of attendance is determined by the institution using federal guidelines and generally ranges from $2,000-$5,000 per semester.