Remembering Yesteryear: 1929 College Athletes Commercialized

Remembering Yesteryear: 1929 College Athletes Commercialized

Long before the current conversation regarding allowing NCAA student athletes to receive payment for their athletic performance from their universities there was a conversation that took place in 1929.

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October 28, 2019
NCAA poised to move toward allowing athletes to make money

By Associated Press

NEW YORK— The NCAA is poised to take a significant step toward allowing college athletes to earn money off the fame they have gained by playing sports.

The Board of Governors will be briefed Tuesday by administrators who have been examining whether it would be feasible to allow athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses while still preserving NCAA amateurism rules that are the bedrock of its existence. The move comes as the nation’s largest governing body for college athletics faces increasing pressure from lawmakers across the country intent on following California’s lead by dismantling compensation prohibitions that currently apply to more than 450,000 NCAA athletes.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman, the leaders of the NCAA’s name, image and likenesses working group, will present a progress report to the board at Emory University in Atlanta. It will be a key early step in a process that could take months or even years to work its way through the NCAA various layers.

“I don’t expect a report saying that we’re going to stay exactly like we are. I don’t think we’re going to get a status quo report,” Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said last week. She said she expected it to be the first of many steps, “certainly not a final report.”

NCAA rules have long barred players from hiring agents and the association has steadfastly refused to allow players to be paid by their schools, with some exceptions. The California law would prevent athletes from losing their scholarships or being kicked off their teams for signing endorsement deals. The measure doesn’t take effect until 2023, leaving time for the NCAA to take its own steps even though other states are considering measures that could take effect even earlier.

A possible place for the NCAA to start is allowing athletes to make money from non-athletic business opportunities, which is currently prohibited. McGlade said the NCAA has been approving waivers at a high rate to allow athletes to earn money if they, for example, develop a product or write a book. In a notable recent case, the NCAA provided a waiver to former Notre Dame basketball star Arike Ogunbowale so she could compete on the television show “Dancing With the Stars.”

Still, the NCAA would like to draw a line between allowing athletes access to money-making opportunities that have well-defined market value and those where payments could be arbitrary and used in lieu of improper recruiting inducements, a person who has been briefed on the work done by Smith and Ackerman’s group told The Associated Press. The person spoke only on condition of anonymity because the working group is not making its work public.

Such a stance would mean prohibiting an athlete from cutting a deal with a local business to appear in a commercial, for example, but letting athletes take advantage of opportunities to monetize their social media followings.

McGlade, in her 12th year as A-10 commissioner after 10 years with the Atlantic Coast Conference, said she is frustrated college sports is facing legislative pressure on an issue that has been hanging over the NCAA for years. Finding a solution that satisfies more than 300 schools competing in Division I is a challenge.

“And I don’t think that it’s possible to have state-by-state legislation or laws,” she said. “But I also believe strongly in that the model should not move so far to the point that there is a ‘pay-for-play, employee-employer relationship’ with student athletes.”

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October 29, 2019
NCAA board approves athlete compensation for image, likeness

By Associated Press

he NCAA took a major step today toward allowing college athletes to cash in on their fame, voting to permit them to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.”

The nation’s largest governing body for college sports and its member schools now must figure out how to allow athletes to profit — something they have fought against doing for years — while still maintaining rules regarding amateurism. The NCAA Board of Governors, meeting at Emory University in Atlanta, directed each of the NCAA’s three divisions to create the necessary new rules immediately and have them in place no later than January 2021.

Board chair Michael Drake, the president of Ohio State University, said the NCAA must embrace change and modernize “to provide the best possible experience for college athletes.”

But such changes will come with limitations, he said.

“The board is emphasizing that change must be consistent with the values of college sports and higher education and not turn student-athletes into employees of institutions,” Drake told The Associated Press.

A group of NCAA administrators has been exploring since May the ways in which athletes could be allowed to receive compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses. The working group, led by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, presented a status report today to the university presidents who make up the Board of Governors.

Smith and Ackerman’s group laid out principles and guidelines, endorsed by the board, to be followed as NCAA members go about crafting new rules and tweaking existing ones, including:

Some college sports leaders fear allowing athletes to earn outside income could open the door to corruption.

“One of the most distinctive things about college sports is this whole recruitment process,” NCAA President Mark Emmert told the AP. “The whole notion of trying to maintain as fair a playing field as you can is really central to all this. And using sponsorship arrangements, in one way or another, as recruiting inducements is something everybody is deeply concerned about.”

Ackerman and Smith said the challenges lie in determining what regulations need to be set in place; what markets athletes should be allowed to access; what entities and individuals they should be permitted to work with; and whether the schools themselves could provide funds to athletes through licensing deals.

The NCAA’s move came a month after California passed a law that would make it illegal for NCAA schools to prohibit college athletes from making money on endorsements, autograph signings and social media advertising, among other activities.

“This is another attempt by the NCAA at stalling on this issue,” said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, an advocacy group.

It’s hard to say exactly how much athletes could fetch on an open market for their names. It could range from a few hundred dollars for creating personalized video and audio greetings for fans through companies such as Cameo, to thousands of dollars for doing television advertisements for local businesses.

NCAA rules allow for an athletic scholarship that covers tuition, room and board, books and a cost-of-attendance stipend. The cost of attendance is determined by the institution using federal guidelines and generally ranges from $2,000-$5,000 per semester.

Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane University sports law program, said the NCAA has taken an important step by recognizing its rules are antiquated.

“But the ultimate question is how are the rules modified to both allow college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness while also being consistent with the collegiate model,” Feldman said.

The NCAA has said California’s law is unconstitutional, and any states that pass similar legislation could see their athletes and schools being declared ineligible to compete. But the board also said it hopes to reach a resolution with states without going to court.

In addition to pending state laws, North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Walker has proposed a national bill that would prohibit the NCAA and its member schools from restricting athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses to third-party buyers on the open market.

“We’re going to continue to communicate with legislators at the state and federal level,” Emmert said. “That’s one of the things that the board is asking of me and my staff and the membership in general, and hopefully we can avoid anything that’s a direct conflict with our state legislators.”

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