By Sharon Robb
NEW YORK, July 3, 2021–Earlier this week, the NCAA approved a name, image and likeness policy for college athletes after a dozen states, including Florida, had already passed their own legislation to enable college athletes to benefit financially.
College athletes can now make money off their fame with sponsorship deals, online endorsements, autograph signings, personal appearances, sports camps and social media posts among other opportunities without endangering their college eligibility or putting their schools in jeopardy for amateur status violations.
“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.
The setup will remain in place until federal legislation or new NCAA rules are adopted.
After 115 years of strict NCAA amateurism rules that said students should play only as amateurs and not be compensated for anything other than the costs of attending college. This is the biggest change in college sports since Title IX, the gender equity law that was introduced nearly 50 years ago.
Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis were among the first to acknowledge the importance of going ahead with executive orders and state laws to change NCAA policies when it comes to amateur athlete status among 1,100 colleges and universities. Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas all have laws and executive orders in effect.
College sports programs earn more than $14 billion a year in television deals alone with Division I football and basketball.
Before the landmark decisions, college student-athletes were only eligible for tuition, room, board and limited living expenses.
“We’re not getting paid salaries,” said one star athlete. “It’s profiting off your name, image and likeness, which is what any other college student can do while being a social media influencer and going out to work in their communities.
“We see schools making $50, $60 million off the backs of athletes, but that’s not equivalent to a scholarship. If people see what we do every single day, they will understand why it’s such a big deal to us to get paid.”
Under the new rules, universities will not pay salaries to players and athletes are not permitted to accept money from any one, including college boosters, in exchange for enrolling at a particular school.
Athletes in other sports, including swimming, could earn some money, but researchers believe the largest sums will typically go to men’s basketball and football players.
Experts also said that the eased restrictions could benefit women, who have relatively few lucrative opportunities in pro sports compared with men but have large and loyal fan base and are most marketable in their college years.
The decision applies to NCAA Division I, which has more than 170,000 student-athletes; II and III colleges, which have a combined 750 schools and 320,000 athletes. Athletes are also allowed to have agents but they must keep their school informed of any arrangements to ensure the activities are consistent with state law.
Companies such as Orlando-based Dreamfield have a website that offers autograph sessions, speeches and other categories with rates, set by athletes, between $100 and $2,000 an hour.
High school athletes hoping to get in on the action were reminded by officials that they can not profit as long as they are competing in sports sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association. They are required to maintain their amateur status and not profit from their athletic talents while competing in high school sports. There are several FHSAA bylaws student-athletes must adhere to.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com