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Hot Reads: NCAA Will Explore Athletes’ Ability to Profit from NIL Rights

May 15, 2019

Who knows if actual change is going to come, but the NCAA is at least willing to talk about student-athletes' ability to profit off their name, image and likeness. On Tuesday, the Association's president and board of governors announced the formation of the Federal and State Legislation Working Group to "examine issues" associated with giving athletes access to at least a portion of the commercial market around college athletics.

From the NCAA's release:

“This group will bring together diverse opinions from the membership — from presidents and commissioners to student-athletes — that will examine the NCAA’s position on name, image and likeness benefits and potentially propose rule modifications tethered to education,” said Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair. “We believe the time is right for these discussions and look forward to a thorough assessment of the many complexities involved in this area.”

According to the board, the group will not consider any concepts that could be construed as payment for participation in college sports. The NCAA’s mission to provide opportunity for students to compete against other students prohibits any contemplation of pay-for-play.

“While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees,” said Gene Smith, Ohio State senior vice president and athletics director and working group co-chair. “That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.”

Smith's quote there underscores the clear line the NCAA still isn't willing to cross––"pay-for-play." But it is willing to at least explore letting other business pay athletes for their NIL rights.

This is essentially the "Olympic model" that has often been cited as an example of how college athletes could profit from the profiles they build while playing. You know how when the Olympics roll around you see Mikaela Shiffrin working as a paid sponsor for everything from Red Bull to Oakley sunglasses? Those are the NIL rights in question here and while NCAA athletes would likely be looking at more of a local rather than global scale, that's what the new working committee will investigate.

Does that prompt a whole bunch of questions? Sure does. Those are questions the committee will have to mull in the months ahead. It's not an easy flip of the switch, but, per the release, the working group is going to work through these initial steps pretty quickly. An update from the group will come in August with a final report due to the board of governors in October.

And that's really the only takeaway from yesterday's announcement that I'm willing to take away for now. After years of fighting off numerous challenges to its original definition of amateurism, we have seen the NCAA take some recent steps that seem to be motivated by proposed legislation, legal decisions, shifting public perception and the changing landscape of college sports.

We don't know exactly what that will be yet, but simply considering it feels like something.

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