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NCAA Votes to Allow Paid Athlete Endorsements – What This Means

The NCAA brings in over one billion dollars in revenue in just one year, most of it from March Madness. But players don’t see any of that money and, for a long time, they couldn’t earn anything but scholarship funds. Now, the rules are changing (kind of).


Recently, the National Collegiate Athletic Association made big waves when they announced that they had voted to allow college athletes to profit from their “name, likeness, and image in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” Why is this a big deal? Until now, the only college athletes who would be paid for their work were Olympic athletes, and only from specific prize funds.


Even with the NCAA’s latest announcement, student athletes still can’t get paid for their participation (or performance) in a sport, because they have to be treated similarly to non-athlete students. But, the new rule does, in theory, allow for paid athlete endorsements. Each division within the NCAA has to create rules around this change by no later than January 2021. Read on to learn more about how this change will impact college athletes.



What does this change mean for NCAA athletes?


Even if student athletes won’t be paid for their participation, being able to profit off their name, likeness, and image means they would be able to take on paid endorsements. So a basketball player who delivers his team a championship during March Madness won’t get paid for the win, but he can use the recognition gained from that win to sign with a shoe brand for a custom sneaker, or can score a deal with a local gym to endorse it.


Before you put a call in to Nike, you might want to look at what will actually change when these rules go into effect. For now, it’s still unclear. Critics of this rule change claim it’s just a reaction to a recent bill signed into law in California, called the “Fair Pay to Play Act.” The bill will allow college athletes in California to profit off their name, likeness, and image starting in 2023. Initially, the NCAA called the bill “unconstitutional” and threatened to remove California schools from their Championships, which causes many to think that the new NCAA rule change is not intended to bring much change at all.


There is also ambiguity in the clause “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” What does it really mean to allow athletes to profit from their “name, likeness, and image in a manner consistent with the collegiate model?” The NCAA has long argued that college athletics exists only on an “amateur model” and that funding from outside sources would ruin that. Their sudden about-face may just be a claim of good faith—but that’s it, a claim.


The actual ramifications of this development will likely continue to unfold over the next few years, as the NCAA divisions work to come up with regulations to enact this change, while still maintaining the principle that student-athletes must be treated similarly to their non-athlete peers. State and federal legislation will play a role in these developments, too. Regardless of what happens, the successful passing of the Fair Pay to Play Act in California shows that even if the NCAA isn’t willing to fight for college athletes’ right to get paid, states themselves are.


If you’re trying to figure out how your athletic involvement throughout high school will contribute to your chances at top schools, check out CollegeVine’s free admissions platform. With our data-driven tools, you can discover schools, find out your chances of acceptance, get essay advice, and more. Create a free account today.

Short Bio
Anna Ravenelle is a graduate of Cornell University, where she studied English with a concentration in Creative Writing. After spending two application cycles in the CollegeVine applications division, she now uses her admissions experience to help a greater number of students. She resides in New York but her heart has never left New Hampshire, where she grew up.