Picture current University of Kansas basketball players selling you a cheeseburger or hyping a local car wash.
Images such as those, and many more like them, are now one step closer to becoming reality in college towns across the country, as the NCAA is moving forward with a plan to allow college athletes to earn money for endorsements and a host of other activities involving personal appearances and social media content.
The NCAA announced Wednesday that its Board of Governors supports permitting athletes the ability to cash in on their names, images and likenesses as never before and without involvement from the association, schools or conferences.
Ohio State President and board chairman Michael Drake called it an “unprecedented” move by the NCAA.
The next step is for membership to draft legislation by Oct. 30. Plenty of details still need to be worked out, including how to ensure that these sponsorship deals aren’t being used as improper inducements to recruits. A formal vote will be taken by schools at the next convention in January and new rules will go into effect no later than the 2021-22 academic year.
“NCAA membership schools have embraced very real change,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
The NCAA fought against allowing athletes to be compensated for name, image and likeness for years, including in court. College sports leaders have said doing so would destroy the NCAA’s amateurism model.
The need for change now was sped up by pressure from state lawmakers. California was first to pass a bill into law that would make it illegal for NCAA schools to prohibit college athletes from making money on endorsements, social media advertising and other activities tied to name, image and likeness.
Dozens of states have followed California’s lead, some more aggressively than others. California’s law does not go into effect until 2023 while a Florida bill awaiting the governor’s signature would go into effect July 2021.
“It’s clear we need Congress’ help in all of this,” Emmert said.
On Wednesday night, given all of the unknowns that still exist, Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self told the Journal-World he thought it was still too early to tell if compensating student-athletes in this way would benefit college athletics as a whole.
“In theory, it’s positive and I certainly hope it works out,” Self said. “And it may be good over time. But I just don’t think it’s a cookie-cutter deal where you can say, ‘Hey, this is really, really good for college athletics.’”
"It's still an unknown," he added. "And how it’s going to be regulated and monitored I think could be something that has far more unintended consequences than what we probably have thought through.”
Last fall, Kansas football coach Les Miles wondered about how small college communities like Lawrence would hold up against the endorsement opportunities offered by businesses in larger cities and states.
“I think we’ll compete very comfortably,” Miles said. “It’ll be interesting to see.”
The NCAA noted it still will seek a federal law to keep individual states from passing their own laws on compensation for college athletes.
The board on Monday and Tuesday reviewed detailed recommendations put forth by a working group led by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman. The recommendations took an aggressive approach, opening the door for athletes to make money on everything from autograph signings and memorabilia sales to signing endorsement deals with companies large and small.
College athletes will not be allowed to use their schools’ logos or markings in any sponsorship deals, but they will be permitted to use agent representation in making any deals.
Smith said there will be “guardrails” in place to ensure athletes are being compensated at an appropriate rate for their services and there will be consequences for athletes who do not meet disclosure requirements.
NCAA leaders have already been engaged with federal lawmakers.
The working group was put together about a year ago, but its work kicked into high gear since the NCAA convention in January.
— The Journal-World's Matt Tait contributed to this report.