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NCAA Board of Governors votes to start process of athletes benefiting from name, image, and likeness

The statement released on Tuesday lacked some specifics, but is an important step forward for student-athletes.

NCAA Men’s Final Four - Previews Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

At an NCAA Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday, the policy-making group for college athletics unanimously voted “to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

Each of the three divisions is now tasked with deciding how to update relevant bylaws and policies.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” chair of the board and president of The Ohio State University Michael V. Drake. “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.”

So how is this going to work? The board laid out the following set of guidelines and principles for the three divisions, which were created following recommendations from the NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group:

  • 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.

The working group was appointed in May and spent the last several months receiving input from key stakeholders ranging from former coaches and players to legislators. It will now move forward by continuing to gather feedback until April.

The Board of Governors also asked each division to create new rules no later than January 2021.

“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,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “The board’s action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”

The vote was largely a response to increased pressure from individual states like California, which passed legislation last month to help athletes profit from their name, image, and likeness beginning in 2023. Illinois passed a similar proposal on Tuesday, the Florida governor has endorsed one in his state, and efforts are underway in Congress, Washington, and Colorado.

Now the question is how much will really change and whether the three divisions can come up with effective plans that actually helps student-athletes.