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NCAA Begins Process Of Allowing Players To Profit From Name, Image, Likeness Rights

The NCAA’s Board of Governors, the organization’s top policy-making group, on Tuesday voted to permit players to benefit from their name, image and likeness rights—though it stopped well short of saying how it would do that. The issue has simmered in college athletics for years but was thrust into the spotlight this fall when California passed a bill that would make it easier for college athletes in the state to profit from those rights beginning in 2023.

While the news is significant, the Board of Governors’ decision is just the start of the process. It did not lay out how its rules would be changed and said the ability to profit from these rights must be “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

The Board of Governors further directed that any rule changes be made with several guidelines in mind:

  • 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 Board of Governors provided no information as to how this would be accomplished, instead tasking the three divisions to come up with their own rule changes, “beginning immediately, but no later than January 2021.”

California state senator Nancy Skinner, who authored the California bill, tweeted the announcement was promising but remained skeptical about how it would be applied.

To that end, what this means for college baseball remains unclear. It could be as aggressive as allowing players to be pitchmen for local car dealerships or shoe companies. It could allow them to be paid for signing autographs or to get a portion of merchandise sales with their name or number on it. It could mean the EA Sports video games for baseball, basketball and football could return. But how aggressive the NCAA will ultimately be remains to be seen.

So, for now, college baseball players must wait and see what opportunities open up in the coming years.


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