TAYLOR COUNTY—Is it finally time for college athletes to get paid?
The NCAA Board of Governors (BOG) decided on Wednesday to support an array of rule changes that would permit payment to college student-athletes for use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL), due to the increased pressure from state legislatures, courthouses, and the general public. But the revenue will have to come from third parties so the athletes cannot be considered “university employees.”
The income potential is likely to be just sufficient for most college athletes, while the elite players could see large payouts under the right set of circumstances.
Leigh Steinberg, the agent who represents Tua Tagovailoa, the former Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback who was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft just last week, said “the right athlete could be making millions.”
It comes as no surprise, really, with NCAA programs raking in millions of dollars in revenue and building sports empires without paying their players. However, students who don’t play sports, such as musicians, journalists, actors, ect., can already cash in if they have extraordinary talents and pursue monetary compensation.
Student-athletes will be able to hire agents to help them find (and develop) streams of revenue, another huge disruption in the line previously drawn by the NCAA.
Agents would reportedly not be able to negotiate with any professional sports teams while their clients remained in college, although details on that particular restriction are still cloudy.
The new NCAA plan would allow athletes to broker deals to gain more of a social media presence, appear in commercials, and hold (or travel to) paid autograph sessions, among other opportunities.
Specific rules will obviously have to be put into place and then submitted to all levels of the NCAA for approval, including D-1, D-2, and D-3 universities and colleges. While some rules could be implemented in this calendar year, a formal vote on the rules changes are expected in January of 2021, and then would take effect for the start of the 2021-22 academic year.
Other tricky obstacles that the board laid out involves recruiting details that could potentially prove difficult to enforce. How would schools and/or wealthy athletic donors be prevented from using endorsement deals to persuade an athlete to play for one school instead of another? How would agents and other advisers who had largely been prohibited from working with college athletes be regulated?
Additional guidelines that will have to be considered are ensuring federal preemption over state name, image, and likeness laws, establishing a safe harbor for the NCAA to provide protection against lawsuits filed for name, image, and likeness rules, and safeguarding the nonemployment status of student-athletes.
Other pressing factors that would have to be taken into consideration would be maintaining the distinction between college athletes and professional athletes, and upholding the NCAA’s values, including diversity, inclusion, and gender equity.
And if we are going to make the move to start paying college athletes, what about compensating elite high school athletes? What about someone like a Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, or Zion Williamson, who were megastars in their teens and completely bypassed college?
“It’s starting to beg the question,” said Cameron Weiss, an agent for Dynamic Sports Group, who is athletic representation firm founded in 2019 with over 100 years of combined industry experience. “If we’re going to allow this at the college level, what about the high school level?”