As the hot debate regarding whether or not college athletes deserve to be financially compensated and receive endorsements rages on, the NCAA Board of Governors expressed support for rule changes in a meeting this week that would allow student athletes to obtain third-party endorsements and profit off their likeness while operating under the NCAA’s guidelines that were originally introduced in October.

Under the proposed rule changes, athletes seeking monetary compensation would be permitted to “identifiy themselves by sport and school” while making personal appearances, starting businesses and financially benefiting from social media opportunities. However, any use of school and conference logos is prohibited and the board emphasized that a university should never “pay student athletes for name, image and likeness activities,” the NCAA’s website said.

The board also told the three divisions of the NCAA to discuss the proposed rule changes that were recommended by the association’s Federal and State Legislation Working Group.

“Throughout our efforts to enhance support for college athletes, the NCAA has relied upon considerable feedback from and the engagement of our members, including numerous student-athletes, from all three divisions,” said Michael Drake, chair of the board and president of Ohio State. “Allowing promotions and third-party endorsements is uncharted territory.”

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The three divisions are expected to implement the new rules by January and have them go into effect by the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

“The NCAA’s work to modernize name, image and likeness continues, and we plan to make these important changes on the original timeline, no later than January 2021,” said Gene Smith, Ohio State senior vice president and athletics director and working group co-chair. “The board’s decision today provides further guidance to each division as they create and adopt appropriate rules changes.”

Any rule changes made by the three divisions must correspond with the following “guiding principles,” according to the NCAA’s website:

  • Ensuring student-athletes are treated similarly to nonathlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate.
  • Maintaining the priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.
  • Ensuring rules are transparent, focused and enforceable, and facilitating fair and balanced competition.
  • Making clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities.
  • Making clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible.
  • Reaffirming that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.
  • Enhancing principles of diversity, inclusion and gender equity.
  • Protecting the recruiting environment and prohibiting inducements to select, remain at or transfer to a specific institution.

“As we evolve, the Association will continue to identify the guardrails to further support student-athletes within the context of college sports and higher education,” said Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair. “In addition, we are mindful of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, college sports and students at large. We hope that modernized name, image and likeness rules will further assist college athletes during these unprecedented times and beyond.”

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