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NCAA Pushing Forward with Name, Image, Likeness Discussions

Brock Fritz

While the sporting world is shut down due to COVID-19, the NCAA still has plenty of items on its agenda.

A day after announcing that member schools can offer spring student-athletes an additional season of eligibility, the NCAA Division I Council said it is moving forward with legislation that would allow student-athletes to benefit financially from their name, image and likeness.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Division I Council chair M. Grace Calhoun said Tuesday that the group will meet in late April to continue working toward a federal law.

“It is absolutely still on course, and I can tell you that I haven’t witnessed any slowdown whatsoever,” said Calhoun, who is also the athletic director at the University of Pennsylvania. “The working groups continue to convene very regularly, and we are still on pace to deliver initial recommendations to the full council for its April meeting, which of course will take place virtually.”

The path to new NIL legislation began in California, where Governor Gavin Newsom signed the state’s “Fair Pay to Play Act” into law in September. The California law, which was introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner, gives student-athletes in California the ability to benefit financially from their NIL.

“This is the beginning of a national movement — one that transcends geographic and partisan lines,” Newsom said in September. “Collegiate student athletes put everything on the line — their physical health, future career prospects and years of their lives to compete. Colleges reap billions from these student athletes’ sacrifices and success but, in the same breath, block them from earning a single dollar. That’s a bankrupt model — one that puts institutions ahead of the students they are supposed to serve. It needs to be disrupted.”

Related content: California Gov. Signs Landmark ‘Fair Pay to Play” Bill

Related content: California Lawmaker Introduces ‘Fair Pay to Play Act’

Several other states introduced similar bills, then the NCAA Board of Governors took action in October, voting unanimously to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their NIL in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience of college athletes,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the NCAA Board of Governors and president of The Ohio State University. “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.”

Related content: NCAA Clears Way for Name, Image and Likeness Rules

NCAA working groups have been working on the details since that announcement. However, the adoption of new NIL bylaws is still more than a year away. Calhoun said that final voting will occur at the annual convention in January 2021.

 “A lot of the sense of urgency continues to be the state conversations and knowing that we have to really press on with our work to know that we can make our changes with NCAA legislation while continuing to work toward the federal bill,” Calhoun said. “Some of the state timelines have changes. Others haven’t, so we consider our work to still be fast-tracked.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, a number of officials are unsure how quickly federal legislation will be able to be passed.

“I think it will be hard to get anything done through this session. Everything is going to be COVID-19,” said Tom McMillen, a former Maryland Congressman and the president of Lead1 Assn., which represents the interests of college athletic directors. “I don’t see Congress coming back in any meaningful fashion until July. Then as you get near the fall, elections approach, and the Congressional calendar is very short.”

“I don’t know if that’s the federal government’s job, to write the solution,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who introduced the Student-Athlete Equity Act in Congress in March 2019. “I’ve tried to give the NCAA time and take it upon themselves to resolve it and say here’s the solution.”

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