NCAA Waives Amateurism Bylaws; NIL is Here — and Here's What it Means for Oklahoma

Sooners QB Spencer Rattler could become one of the nation's top earning college athletes; OU already had a program in place to help athletes facilitate their brand.
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In a broad, sudden and largely unprecedented legislative move, the NCAA on Wednesday cleared an immediate (if only interim) path for student-athletes to begin making money off their name, image and likeness.

NIL officially goes into effect, association-wide, on Thursday. That’s per a decision from the NCAA’s Board of Directors today that basically waives the association's amateurism bylaws.

“This is an important day for college athletes since they all are now able to take advantage of name, image and likeness opportunities,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “With the variety of state laws adopted across the country, we will continue to work with Congress to develop a solution that will provide clarity on a national level. The current environment — both legal and legislative — prevents us from providing a more permanent solution and the level of detail student-athletes deserve.”

Athletes can now sell the rights to their name, image and likeness, meaning they can profit off their celebrity — something that the NCAA long said runs against its tenets of amateurism.

The association, however, apparently has capitulated that those tenets are archaic and — amid a swelling tide of support that includes more and more state laws that restrict the prohibition by the NCAA or its member institutions of athletes earning whatever they can — actually run counter to the well-being of contemporary athletes.

Although Emmert tried to stand firm against last week’s Supreme Court ruling that the NCAA can’t be allowed to restrict education-related benefits to college athletes, this week’s news represents a radical change of direction.

Now, the potential for earning seems limited only by the imagination.

Advertising ventures, social media campaigns, jersey sales, appearance fees, autograph sales — that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.

The NCAA will still prohibit schools from legally paying their athletes beyond scholarship payments, room and board, meals and cost-of-attendance stipends.

But athletes now can legally arrange their own deals off campus — essentially any local, regional or national retailer or entity that wants to enter into a partnership with the athlete can do so, provided it doesn’t already have an existing business arrangement with the university.

Also, state laws vary widely in what’s permitted and what’s not, and it could be left to the NCAA to untangle what’s defined as permissible NIL earnings.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd tweeted this week that he’s heard a Power 5 quarterback “will announce a national deal” this week.

The announcement comes two days after the Division I Council recommended a "bridge waiver" to allow the immediate and broad enactment of NIL.

NIL bridge waiver guidelines

  • College athletes can begin business ventures that are consistent with NIL laws in that state. Schools are responsible monitoring compliance with state laws.
  • In states with no NIL laws yet, college athletes can engage in NIL activities.
  • College athletes can also use a professional services provider to facilitate NIL opportunities.
  • Student-athletes should report NIL activities to their school.

Oklahoma junior Spencer Rattler is the early betting favorite both to win this year’s Heisman Trophy and to be taken No. 1 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. Playing for a successful coach like Lincoln Riley at a storied program like Oklahoma that already has been ranked No. 1 this preseason would make Rattler as marketable as any college football player in the country.

OU’s NIL program, called “The Foundry,” was implemented in December in preparation for the NCAA’s coming legislation. Now that it’s already in place as the bylaw has been waived, the Sooners are ready.

“Educating and preparing our student-athletes so they can maximize their NIL value is important to us, like it is to every school, but it can't be 'one size fits all,’ “ OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said in a December press release. “We are gaining greater understanding of this new era as it continues to evolve.

“However, we want to set our program apart by understanding our students' success begins at the core of self-awareness, meaning a better understanding of one's own talents and gifts as well as the ways to properly accentuate them. This will not only help them understand creative and substantive ways they can engage in the marketplace but also the business of legal aspects in maximizing opportunities to build their own personal brand.”