On Tuesday, the NCAA made an announcement that could represent a seismic shift in collegiate athletics. The body’s Board of Governors voted unanimously to begin a “modernization” that would pave the way for student-athletes to earn money from the use of their name, image and likeness.
Reaction to the news was swift, and athletics officials, conference commissioners and lawmakers all weighed in.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose signature on the so-called Fair Pay to Play Act represented a nationwide first, told CNBC that he would be monitoring the NCAA process as it unfolds to “ensure the rules ultimately adopted are aligned with the legislation we passed this year.”
California’s legislation allowing for student-athletes to earn money from their name, image and likeness is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023 — a delay purpose-built to allow the NCAA time to figure out its own rules.
A number of athletic directors and coaches spoke to the media in the wake of the NCAA announcement.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told the Columbia, S.C., ABC affiliate that the NCAA move was a step in the right direction. “The action of the NCAA Board of Governors today is a step in the modernization of rules related to opportunities made available to student-athletes,” Sankey said. “We are proud of the support we provide to our student-athletes in the Southeastern Conference and believe it is important, whatever the future may hold, to maintain the elements of the current college athletics system that most effectively benefit student-athletes across the country.”
That sentiment was largely echoed by athletics officials, with many adopting a tone of cautious optimism.
“We look forward to engaging with the NCAA, Atlantic Coast Conference and others in creating a consistent national framework within the guiding principles set forth by the working group,” Clemson AD Dan Radakovich said in a statement.
“The University of South Carolina looks forward to joining with the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Division I to determine how to implement name, image and likeness benefits for our student-athletes,” South Carolina AD Ray Tanner said.
Some athletic directors were more hesitant to signal support, including Iowa AD Gary Barta, who according to CBS2/FOX28 in Cedar Rapids voiced concerns about “unintended consequences.”
“I’m passionate about preserving the Collegiate Model. I’m listening and will be fully engaged, but I also know there may be unintended consequences that come with students receiving payments for their Name, Image and Likeness,” Barta said. “We have to be able to continue our commitment to education and to maintain a clear difference between professional and college sports.”
Meanwhile, federal legislators jumped in with reaction of their own, including North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who said that student-athletes who earn money on their name, image or likeness should also have their scholarships taxed as income.
If college athletes are going to make money off their likenesses while in school, their scholarships should be treated like income. I’ll be introducing legislation that subjects scholarships given to athletes who choose to “cash in” to income taxes. https://t.co/H7jXC0dNls— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) October 29, 2019
While Tuesday’s announcement was significant, there are still many issues to sort out, according to NCAA president Mark Emmert.
"In creating a system for allowing students to take advantage of name, image and likeness one of the biggest concerns the working group has spent a lot of time on — and is going to keep spending time on — is how do you allow liberalization and not have it just become part of the recruiting wars?” Emmert told USA Today. “That’s going to be one of the biggest challenges in coming up with real bylaws."