The NCAA is on the cusp of finalizing legislation to allow athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness—an expected but historic move.
The governing body of college athletics has presented its latest draft on how to govern athlete compensation to members of the Division I Council, who are expected to approve the proposal at a meeting Wednesday. Formal approval, though, would not come until January. Sports Illustrated obtained a copy of the 22-page document, which details changes to NCAA legislation based on new NIL concepts developed by the NCAA D-I Name, Image and Likeness Legislative Solutions Group.
As expected, the legislation grants athletes the right to use their name, image and likeness (NIL) to:
• Promote private lessons and business activities and operate their own camps and clinics, as long as they do not use school marks.
• Profit from endorsing products through commercials and other ventures, as long as they do not use any school marks or reveal the school in which they attend. They are only allowed to refer to “their involvement in intercollegiate athletics generally,” according to documents.
• Be compensated for autograph sessions, as long as they do not occur during an institution event or competition and no school marks or apparel is used during the sale of the material.
• Solicit funds through crowdfunding, such as GoFundMe, for non-profit or charities, catastrophic events, family hardships and educational experiences, such as internships.
However, there are restrictions to what products an athlete can endorse. The legislation would prohibit athletes from engaging in activities involving a commercial product or service that conflicts “with NCAA legislation,” including sports wagering and banned substances, the document says.
Also, an institution can prohibit an athlete’s involvement in name, image and likeness activities that conflict with existing institutional sponsorship arrangements or other school “values,” the proposal says.
Athletes would be allowed to enter deals with agents but for only three specific reasons: to give advice for NIL ventures, assist in contract negotiations and help market an athlete’s NIL ventures. Athletes must disclose their NIL ventures and their relationships and contracts with agents to the schools and a third-party administrator yet to be named. The third-party administrator could develop “a web-based platform for individuals to submit information to satisfy new disclosure requirements, report to an oversight entity (e.g., NCAA) national trends and monitor and evaluate NIL activities for possible malfeasance,” the document says.
College recruits are afforded the opportunity to enter NIL activities, but they must report and disclose all deals before signing with a school. Boosters are allowed to engage with athletes in NIL “provided no improper inducements or extra benefits are provided,” the document says.
The proposed legislation is a somewhat living document. It will continue to be updated and modified by both the working group and the D-I Council over the next two months. The policy would be voted on in January at the NCAA Convention and enacted at the start of the next academic year.
However, the NCAA’s legislation may be moot. Congress is expected to draft and pass its own NIL legislation at the NCAA’s own request. A half-dozen lawmakers are in the process of drafting or have already introduced NIL bills, the most recent of which came from Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio).
The NCAA only agreed to allow athletes to profit from their NIL after a wave of states took up their own legislation. Several of them, namely Florida and California, have passed NIL bills.
There is a sort-of deadline for federal legislation. Florida’s state NIL law takes effect next July. Without a universal rule governing athlete compensation, schools in Florida could quite literally play by different rules starting with the 2021 football season. Congress, already a slow-moving body, is grappling with a pandemic, potentially slowing any progress on this front. The U.S. Senate has held four hearings in three different committees about the topic.
Seeking help from Congress, the NCAA’s attempt has somewhat backfired. It has opened itself up to deep inquiries from lawmakers, many of them not fans of the organization. Congressional members are seeking more reform within the association beyond NIL, something raised in the latest and third NIL hearing on Capitol Hill on June 22. In fact, Democratic lawmakers are crafting legislation that they refer to as an “athlete’s bill of rights,” which could potentially fold into an NIL bill.
Over the summer, Sports Illustrated has reported on several documents that have provided a window into the NCAA’s own thinking on NIL, including frameworks from the Power 5, NCAA Division I and, most recently, a survey sent to athletic directors about the issue.