Monday December 1st, 2014

In an apparent indication of the NCAA loosening restrictions on student-athlete likeness rules, the governing body allowed Purdue basketball player Stephen Toyra to launch his own real estate career.

According to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Toyra, a junior guard who earned a scholarship as a walk-on, launched Family Realty Group this summer. After receiving his realty license, Toyra petitioned the NCAA with the help of Purdue's compliance office for a rules interpretation to allow him to use his full name and photo in advertisements for the realty group. The NCAA ruled that Toyra could only use his first name, presenting Toyra with an obvious competitive disadvantage.

A second petition of the NCAA brought the same response in April, though he was encouraged to file a waiver for his special case. He was ultimately granted the waiver.

Two weeks prior to Family Realty Groups' open house, the NCAA accepted Toyra's argument for a waiver. As long as he doesn't mention his affiliation with Purdue, Toyra is free to use his full name and photos of himself to publicize the business. On the FRG website, he and Medrano stand in front of a backdrop of downtown Lafayette and beside a row of the business partners' family members.

The nature of Toyra's business and its correlation to his management major — as well as the NCAA's increasingly flexible stance on economic issues involving student-athletes — combined for a favorable ruling, according to Tom Mitchell, the Purdue compliance director.

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As John Infante of Sporting News points out, the ruling is similar to ideas discussed by the NCAA Amateurism Cabinet earlier this year. Three concepts were discussed in January, ranging in restrictiveness from "Use of Likeness in Athletically and Nonathletically Related Employment and Businesses" to "Use of Likeness to Promote Student-Athlete’s Own Nonathletically Related Business." The former would allow student-athletes to use their name or likeness to promote their own business or place of employment even if that job or business was related to their athletic ability. The example given by the cabinet was if a student-athlete was cast as an athlete in a movie. The athlete would be able to receive compensation and promote the movie. 

The latter would only allow the student-athlete to promote their own business, and only if that business was not related to athletic ability.

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The waiver Toyra received would be allowed even under that most restrictive concept. The Cabinet never moved forward with any of the proposals, however, considering the governance overhaul that occurred shortly thereafter. As Infante explains, the Cabinet is now gone and it remains to be seen what kind of group will replace it. A new Council substructure will likely be developed over the coming months.

Toyra has played 11 minutes in six games for Purdue this season.

- Mike Fiammetta

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