This morning, the NCAA’s governing board surprisingly voted unanimously to allow student-athletes in the future to benefit from “the use of their name, image, and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” This decision is in stark contrast to the strict amateur rules the NCAA has previously firmly enforced. So what changed? Technology has created easy access for anyone to create content on the internet and via social media.
Over the past few years, there has been growing support among the public to allow student-athletes to be able to profit from their talents, especially since many don’t go on to play professional sports or don’t even graduate. The first example that springs to mind is the case of Donald De La Haye, a former kickoff specialist for the University of Central Florida. In addition to being a Division 1 college athlete, De La Haye was a content creator on YouTube who produced many videos demonstrating his football talents. Eventually, the NCAA caught wind of these videos and told him that he could not make videos involving football in any way whatsoever. De La Haye was given a difficult choice: continue making YouTube videos and lose his NCAA eligibility or quit producing content on YouTube.
This story caught a lot of media attention, and while much of the public does not agree with schools directly paying college athletes, most saw this as a ridiculous regulation. De La Haye was not allowed to make money from videos that he put hours of his time and energy into simply because he demonstrated his football talents in the videos. De La Haye, who was a marketing major, saw what he was doing on the internet as something related to his learning. He was figuring out how to create and grow a brand — clearly part of his education as a marketing major that he would be able to apply long after his college graduation. However, the NCAA states that collegiate players are not allowed to profit from their name, brand or likeness in any way, which resulted in De La Haye no longer being allowed to play football at UCF.
In response to situations like this, the California Legislature recently passed SB-206, also known as the Fair Pay to Play Act. SB-206 states that student-athletes will be allowed to sign endorsement deals, and make money from autograph signings and coaching youth athletics, as well as hire representation. The bill also prohibits the NCAA from declaring them ineligible for doing these things. Simply put, the state of California has declared that players are allowed to profit from their name, image, and likeness. Politicians in Illinois, Florida, and New York have now introduced bills similar to SB-206. California’s new law and other potential laws put a lot of pressure on the NCAA to change its stance, as it seems untenable that a private organization can punish its members for simply following their state laws.
So now what? Each division of NCAA football will decide on its own rules regarding player compensation prior to January 1, 2021, although schools will still be prohibited from directly paying student-athletes. As more states enact similar laws and pressure is exerted on the NCAA, it seems likely that we will see changes — similar to those enacted in California — that will allow student-athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness. By embracing the modern world where athletes can make money from their social media, the NCAA may yet be able to relieve the pressure on schools to directly pay athletes, versus the more traditional scholarship athlete model.