On October 7, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics made history when it became the first collegiate sports organization to pass reform allowing college athletes to earn compensation for use of their names, images, and likenesses (NILs). The NCAA has been resisting such reform for decades, and leaves many questions for college athletes, parents, and others moving forward. Here are three big ones:
1.) What does this legislation mean for NCAA athletes?
In a word, nothing. The NAIA is a completely separate governing body than the NCAA, so NAIA rules don’t apply to NCAA athletes. However, the NAIA’s new framework certainly challenges many of the NCAA’s arguments against NIL reform, including Title IX implications, the erosion of amateur sports, and questions of fair market value. Since the NAIA has released its refreshingly simple set of NIL guidelines, it will become increasingly hard for the NCAA to argue against NIL reform (but I still anticipate a fight from the NCAA moving forward).
2.) Why did the NAIA choose to act now?
The NAIA has been working toward NIL reform since March 2019, and actually allows athletes to receive financial assistance from friends, family, and boosters. The push for NIL reform comes in part from pressure from state bills, as the NAIA recognizes that NIL rights have become a movement and wants athletes who attend institutions in states that are passing NIL laws to be eligible to compete (and according to its website, the NAIA views NIL reform as a way to demonstrate that the NAIA prioritizes its athletes). Instead of fighting change, the NAIA decided to work with it, which is good—the state of Florida is passing a NIL law that goes into effect in June 2021, so the clock is ticking on NIL reform within the NCAA.
3.) What do the new rules say?
Thankfully, the modifications are concise enough to fit on a web page. The NAIA provides all of its new rules on its website along with a list of NIL scenarios athletes may face. In short, the NAIA is letting the free market work—athletes are allowed to use their NILs to promote products, become influencers, and host training camps, among other commercial activities. The reform is broader than many NCAA proposals because college athletes are also allowed to reference their universities in NIL deals.
The NAIA admits on its website that there’s no easy solution to crafting NIL rules. But one thing is clear: the NCAA is running out of excuses to delay a massive overhaul of its current NIL policies.
* Originally published on October 13, 2020, by Katie Lever, M.A.