NCAA Votes to Start Process Permitting Athletes to Benefit From Likeness

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA’s Board of Governors unanimously voted Tuesday to "permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model."

In doing so, the board is directing its three divisions to create a new rules framework for no later than January 2021 that can be adapted to keep a clear distinction between collegiate and professional athletes.

“As a national governing body, the NCAA is uniquely positioned to modify its rules to ensure fairness and a level playing field for student-athletes,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. “The board’s action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”

Before student-athletes can profit, the board's three divisions will consider what adjustments need to be made to the organization's current bylaws. The board made clear in its official release that the group’s “modernization” should occur within a number of guidelines, including making “clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible" and to "protect the recruiting environment and prohibit inducements to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution."

“This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships,” added Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and president of The Ohio State University.

Tuesday's vote comes following California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent legislation to allow college athletes to be paid for their likeness. Under the new law, schools will not pay athletes, but athletes can hire agents to seek out business deals for them. The bill will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023.

More than a dozen states have expressed interest in creating laws similar to California’s, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who just last week voiced his support for a bill that could go into effect this summer if passed. 

LeBron James, who welcomed Gov. Newsom onto his HBO show The Shop to sign California Senate Bill 206, praised the NCAA's decision to start the process.