It started with decisions by individual states that moved to allow NCAA athletes to earn money off of their name, image or likeness. With that pressure — and with the potential for schools in those states to gain a competitive advantage over those that do not allow that opportunity — an NCAA committee suggested the organization change its longstanding and rock-solid policy that athletes only can receive scholarships and other cost-of-living stipends. The NCAA always has maintained that its long adherence to that rule maintains the ever-important amateur status of its athletes. It’s what differentiates NCAA athletics from professional sports.
Nonetheless, the NCAA took the committee’s advice and gave its approval.
Good for the NCAA, and good for the athletes.
Will this bring some sort of instant and obvious change to the games we watch? Probably not.
The difference will be that football and hockey stars from regional programs may end up in advertisements for, say, a local restaurant or car dealership. And the new rule means they also could receive payment for their social media accounts, which for star athletes can attract huge followings. Those eyeballs are worth something to advertisers.
At top-level universities — UCLA, Texas and the like — expect the top athletes to land endorsement deals for shoes or soft drinks. Perhaps even a movie appearance. They cannot, however, use their school’s logo or any university trademarks in their personal marketing campaigns.
Again, we see this as good for the athletes.
It’s true that the top stars receive scholarships. But many universities are making so much more in return on those players’ name, image and likeness — known in the business as “NIL.”
Most athletes, meanwhile, must dedicate their entire college experience to their craft and their program. It means they usually can’t hold jobs to earn spending money, and that’s not necessarily the case with students who receive non-athletic scholarships.
And for most college athletes, they have the smallest window of opportunity to use their fame — whether nationally or just at the local level — to their advantage.
Further, it allows women athletes to gain some sort of financial benefit from their success. Top male athletes can earn millions in professional leagues, but women generally don’t have that opportunity. Their marketing potential peaks in college.
Will it at all spoil the experience for fans in the region to see University of North Dakota, North Dakota State or South Dakota State football players promoting local restaurants? A hockey player endorsing equipment? A volleyball player receiving payment for promoting a product on her social media account? A softball player hosting a series of summer camps or offering one-on-one training sessions?
No, it won’t. Not at all. Nor will this be any cost to the universities they attend.
More power to the young athletes who get this unique opportunity.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Grand Forks Herald.