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NCAA announces plan to provide athletes a way to profit from their names and images

NCAA

(Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)

In a landmark decision likely to alter the impact the NCAA has in the lives of college athletes, the organization voted unanimously Tuesday to begin amending its rules to allow them to profit from their names, images and likenesses.

In a caveat suggesting its intent to continue overseeing the process, the NCAA also said it will be done “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

Still, this is clearly a step in the right direction for those who believe athletes have been used to make money for their schools and coaches.

In a release on Tuesday, the NCAA board indicated all changes would eventually create a world where student-athletes have “the same opportunities to make money as all other students” while maintaining the priorities of education and the collegiate experience, and ensure rules are “transparent, focused and enforceable” and do not create a competitive imbalance.

As a starting point, the board is directing its three separate divisions to begin immediately figuring out how to update rules while maintaining a distinction between college and professional sports. The board wants each division to implement new rules by January 2021.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” board chair Michel Drake said. “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 NCAA’s board of governors came to its decision at a meeting in Atlanta. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East commissioner Val Ackerman offered recommendations on how to modify the existing rules. They’ve been at it since May following the news that came out of California about this issue.

Democratic state senator Nancy Skinner wrote a bill now signed into law that will prohibit California schools from punishing athletes for accepting endorsement money starting in January 2023.

Smith cautioned the NCAA’s new rules would not mirror what’s to be implemented in California in terms of opening things up to an unrestricted market. The NCAA’s working group plans to stay involved in an effort to decide how to implement the new rules and regulate endorsement deals.

U.S. Congressman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) has proposed a bill to change the federal tax code and likely force the NCAA to give all student-athletes the right to sell their names, images and likenesses in an unrestricted market. Walker hopes to bring his bill to a vote in early 2020, which could pave the way for implementation in January 2021.

California’s action has been supported by more than a dozen states interested in enacting something similar. This is what has prompted the NCAA to proactively seek its own “national” solution to the issue.

Of course, its hard to say whether the proposals eventually made by the NCAA will be sufficient to please the individual states.