The NCAA is set to allow student-athletes to profit from image rights

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) has announced it will allow student-athletes the opportunity to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness.

The announcement comes after the NCAA’s board of governors voted unanimously in favor of the decision, thus starting the process of allowing the student-athletes the opportunity to be compensated. 

Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, stated: “As a national governing body, the NCAA is uniquely positioned to modify its rules to ensure fairness and a level playing field for student-athletes. The board’s action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”

The decision to enhance name, image and likeness opportunities for student-athletes was based on recommendations from the NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group, which includes presidents, commissioners, athletics directors and administrators as well as student-athletes themselves. 

The group, which gathered input across all three NCAA divisions, will continue to collect feedback until April from stakeholders – current and former student-athletes, coaches, presidents, faculty and commissioners.

This will be done in order for the group to understand how best to respond to the state and federal legislative environment. Moreover it will allow for the refinement of its recommendations on the principles and regulatory framework. 

Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and president of the Ohio State University, added: “We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes. Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. 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.”

The decision to allow student-athletes the opportunity to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness, follows on from the news earlier this month that saw California Governor Gavin Newsom cause confusion after signing a bill which enabled college athletes to be paid for their image rights.

At the time, the NCAA released a statement which read: “As a membership organization, the NCAA agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process.

“We will consider next steps in California while our members move forward with ongoing efforts to make adjustments to NCAA name, image and likeness rules that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.”

As a result of the unanimous vote, each NCAA division has now been directed to consider modernization of bylaws and policies and has been granted until January 2021 to create any new rules which would be implemented effective immediately.

Specifically, the NCAA’s board has highlighted the following principles and guidelines which it believes requires modernization:

  • Assure student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate. 
  • Maintain the 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 opportunities. 
  • 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. 
  • Protect the recruiting environment and prohibit inducements to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution.