Big news in the world of college athletics came on Wednesday when the NCAA Board of Governors approved a recommendation for what they called “uncharted territory.”
Matt Murschel, who covers college football at the Orlando Sentinel, provides excellent detail:
Under the plan, athletes can profit on third-party endorsement deals. The opportunities can come from television commercials or social media posts. It includes the ability for an athlete to profit from a YouTube page.
This will not impact the upcoming season, as the board is targeting 2021-22 for this to go into effect.
There are a few interesting nuances to the recommendation. Firstly, the players cannot use the school’s logos in promotions and cannot wear apparel identifying the school (though they can identify their program). Further and most interesting, their school can have no part in setting up the endorsement opportunity. This eliminates the concern that schools would quickly turn into ad agencies searching for opportunities for athletes with the program that does the best job finding lucrative deals for their student-athletes reaping the best future recruits.
The NCAA also is focused on making sure any endorsement opportunities do not become a recruiting tool for boosters and a college athlete is not paid more than fair market value for the endorsement. NCAA officials conceded they are still working to figure out that price point, but the organization is focused on trying to avoid a booster or business paying an athlete an excessive amount.
It is encouraging to see the NCAA is working hard to strike the proper balance between doing right by athletes and maintaining fair play among their member institutions. NCAA President Mark Emmert said there is “particular concern and interest in maintaining a non-employee status.” The importance of such a distinction has been highlighted by the financial distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While schools like Louisville have been forced into lay-offs and furloughs of Athletic Department employees, thankfully student-athletes scholarships have remained intact (though some schools couldn’t afford to take back senior spring sport athletes who were awarded an extra year of eligibility).
Lastly, it’s worth nothing that promoting alcohol, tobacco and sports gambling are prohibited. Athletes will have to give information on all third-party deals to the school, though the school cannot coordinate the deals.
Overall, it seems like the NCAA, which often deserves and receives much criticism, is working do right by their student-athletes while maintaining the shred of parity we have in college sports. This will help prevent ridiculous situations like the one UCF kicker Donald De La Haye encountered when he lost his scholarship for refusing to take down his profitable YouTube channel. At the same time, if managed properly, it should prevent the sort of above market value endorsements to lure elite recruits that detractors have fears.