The NCAA’s top policy-making group on Tuesday voted “unanimously 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,” the association said in a news release.
The release followed a Board of Governors meeting at which the group received a report from a special committee that had been appointed in May to examine the name, image and likeness issue.
The statement about the board action did not provide specifics, but said changes to NCAA rules in each of the three divisions could occur immediately, as long as they occur within principles and guidelines that include:
►Assuring student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate.
►Maintaining the priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.
►Ensuring rules are transparent, focused and enforceable and facilitate fair and balanced competition.
►Making clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities.
►Making clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible.
►Reaffirming that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.
The board said the special committee will continue to gather feedback through April 2020 and it asked each of the associations’s three divisions to make rules changes no later than January 2021.
The NCAA’s action comes about a month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that will make it easier for college athletes in the state to profit from their own name, image and likeness, beginning in 2023.
“I’m thrilled that with the California Legislature’s and Gov. Newsom’s support (of the new law), it was the push that the NCAA needed to do the right thing,” said California State Sen. Nancy Skinner, who authored the bill. “I’m encouraged by the vote today, but the devil’s in the details. … We’ll be monitoring.”
The lead time in the law’s effective date resulted from an amendment to the bill that was made out of consideration for the NCAA working group. Still, the NCAA pushed against the legislation, with Board of Governors sending a letter to Newsom in early September that said enactment “would result in (California schools) being unable to compete in NCAA competitions” and would be “unconstitutional.”
Reference to the bill’s legality signaled the NCAA’s potential willingness to sue California under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says that only Congress has the power to regulate commerce among states.
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But well before Newsom (D) gave his assent, similar legislative efforts had begun in Congress and in the states of Washington and Colorado. And while the action in California was being finalized, lawmakers in four other states either introduced, or announced their intention to introduce, bills similar to California’s. Since then, at least 10 more states have seen at least talk of proposals.
On Tuesday, the Illinois House of Representatives’ Higher Education Committee approved a measure similar to California’s — and also with a 2023 effective date — by a 9-6 margin. The vote puts the bill on the House floor, where it could soon receive afull vote.
Another significant activity in another state occurred last week, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, endorsed a bi-partisan proposal in his state that would take effect as early as July 2020. Like California, Florida has numerous major-college programs — and a law there would put the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences directly alongside the Pac-12 in having to confront the issue.
NCAA rules presently allow athletes to make money from their name, image or likeness, but only under a series of specific conditions, including that no reference can be made to their involvement in college sports.
The setup has come under criticism from a wide range of sources, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who headed an NCAA commission to look at issues in college basketball and came away calling the association’s name-image-and-likeness rules “incomprehensible.” That comment, in May 2018, came in the wake of Notre Dame women’s basketball star Arike Ogunbowale receiving a waiver from the NCAA that allowed her to make money as a participant on Dancing with the Stars. The NCAA said it was granting the waiver because the show was unrelated to her basketball abilities.
“I couldn’t for the life of me understand the explanation,” Rice told USA TODAY Sports’ Christine Brennan, “because obviously she’s there because she hit two winning shots in two basketball games (in the women’s Final Four), so that’s the connection.”
In May 2019, with legislation pending, the association unveiled what it called the NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group. The announcement naming the group said a “final report” would be due to the board in October.
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