This is an excerpt from Applied Sport Management Skills 4th Edition With HKPropel Access by Robert N. Lussier & David C. Kimball.
Reviewing Their Game Plan
NCAA Supports Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) as Their Power Over College Athletics Erodes
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes. NCAA schools award nearly $3.5 billion in athletic scholarships every year and provide vast support to help student-athletes graduate at a rate higher than their general student peers. The employees at the NCAA national office oversee all championships, and they manage programs that benefit student-athletes and support member committees which make rules and policies for college sports. Member schools and conferences ultimately decide which rules to adopt for their division—everything from recruiting and compliance to academics and championships.1 “The NCAA, a member-led organization, was founded in 1906 to regulate the rules of college sport and protect young athletes.”2
The NCAA has done a good job being in the public eye with amazing collegiate football games on Saturday afternoons during the fall months of the calendar. March Madness is a 64-team rush to win the NCAA basketball tournament in March. The cancelation of March Madness in 2020 was one of the key moments in realizing the importance of the COVID-19 virus that was spreading around the world.
However, the NCAA also had a history of using their powerful position in collegiate sports to maintain the status quo that college athletes could not be paid. Even though the coaches for powerful universities were paid very well in sports such as football and hockey, their players could receive no pay.
It took many years of debate to find at least a partial solution or even a start to help the athletes. The result, known as name, image, and likeness (NIL), is creating the biggest changes in a generation of the NCAA being part of collegiate sports. The impetus for true change began on September 30, 2019. California passed legislation introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner that would, starting in 2023, prohibit schools from punishing athletes who accept endorsement money while in college. The NCAA, true to their determination to fight athletes being paid, called the legislation an “existential threat” to college amateur sports when it was introduced months earlier.3
However, the NCAA decided the California legal ruling, which also was copied in various formats in many other states, was the final attempt to try to maintain that athletes should not be paid. By October 29, 2019, the NCAA conceded that it was time to include new rules about name, image, and likeness for athletes to be able to receive sponsorship dollars. The board directed all three NCAA divisions to make rules by January 2021 that allow athletes to make endorsement money while maintaining “the collegiate model.”4 A year of hard work by many people was needed to prepare NIL for implementation. The NCAA formed a working group on how to change their rules, NCAA President Mark Emmert made many announcements that it was time for a change, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled June 21, 2021 that the NCAA’s rules restricting education-related benefits were illegal,5 and Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Representative Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) pulled all the language together to make NIL a reality.
By July 1, 2021, many state laws became official (ahead of the original 2023 implementation date), and the new NCAA policies that college athletes were allowed to be compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness were in place. Various athletes announced endorsement deals. An interesting example is the twin sisters, Hannah and Haley Cavinder, who play for Fresno State’s basketball team and entertain millions of followers on social media. They are now spokeswomen for Boost Mobile with plans to promote the wireless telecommunications company in a variety of ways in the coming year.6
Only time will tell if the NIL agreement will lead to further compensation such as athletes being paid for actually playing their sport. We will also have to wait and see if there is any equity for all college athletes—or will only the big college stars at large universities receive fair compensation? Alabama University quarterback Bryce Young signed more than $800,000 in NIL endorsements before he even started a football game.7