The NCAA Board of Governors took the first step Tuesday toward allowing amateur athletes to cash in on their fame, voting unanimously to permit them to "benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness."
The United States' largest governing body for college athletics realized that it "must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes," the board said in a news release issued after the vote at Emory University in Atlanta.
The NCAA and its member schools now must figure out how to allow athletes to profit while still maintaining rules regarding amateurism. The board asked each of the NCAA's three divisions to create the necessary new rules beginning immediately and have them in place no later than January 2021.
"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," said board chair Michael V. Drake.
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 task force, led by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, presented a status report Tuesday to the Board of Governors, composed of university presidents.
Speaking Tuesday night on his weekly radio program, Kansas coach Bill Self called the release "a great first step."
"It has to be addressed. I mean, the way it's worked over time isn't going to continue to work this way," Self said. "This doesn't have anything to do with our situation. It's bigger than that. The amateurism model moving forward, college athletics moving forward for all sports, I've always felt that if any student on campus can profit off their name, image and likeness, then why couldn't an athlete do the same thing? At least have the same opportunities that the other students have."
The NCAA's shift came a month after California passed a law that would make it illegal for NCAA schools in the state to prohibit college athletes from making money on such activities as endorsements, autograph signings and social media advertising.
California's law goes into effect in 2023. More than a dozen states have followed with similar legislation; some are hoping to have laws in effect as soon as 2020.
"So it's a situation where it could, the way it was kind of written in California, I don't know if that's going to be the end game in what they settle on, but it's great that it's at the forefront of everyone's mind in determining the future of the NCAA," Self said. "This needs to be discussed, hashed out, and hopefully something can be developed in the foreseeable future, which I do believe that will occur."
The NCAA has said state laws that contradict the national governing body's rules could lead to athletes being declared ineligible or schools not being allowed to compete.
There is also a federal bill in the works, sponsored by North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, that could prevent the NCAA and its member schools from restricting its athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses to third-party buyers on the open market.
"I think whatever happens, let's just make sure it's an NCAA rule that's uniform as opposed to a state-by-state rule," Self said, "because I don't see how anybody could compete against a situation where we're recruiting against somebody and we have that advantage? We're going to get that kid, or somebody else in our state or somebody else with similar laws will get that kid. Or if we don't have that, then obviously we would struggle getting that youngster."
The Topeka Capital-Journal contributed to this report