NCAA Group Supports Player Approval Plan

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The main NCAA governing body said Wednesday it supports a proposal to allow university athletes to sign approval contracts and receive payments for other work, provided that the schools they attend are not involved in any of the payments.

A task force has come together to assess a way to modernize the NCAA rules for athletes who make money from their names, images and likenesses [NIL] presented its recommendations to the board of governors at its annual meeting in April Tuesday afternoon. The recommendations included major changes to current restrictions while leaving room for the NCAA and schools to regulate the type of agreement that athletes may be allowed to sign in the future and the monetary value of these agreements.

“Allowing promotions and third party endorsements is unexplored territory,” chairman Michael Drake said in a statement Wednesday morning.

The NCAA press release stated that athletes will be allowed to appear in advertisements and will be able to reference their sport and school, but may not use any of the school logos or branding in these advertisements.

Ohio Sports Director Gene Smith, who co-chaired the NIL Payments Review Task Force, said the proposed changes will go through the normal NCAA rule-making process. Member schools will have the opportunity to give their opinion and comments in the coming months. Smith said in a press release that a vote on the proposed changes would likely take place in January 2021.

Task Force recommendations are not guaranteed to remain the same in the nine months before NCAA leaders are expected to vote on new rules, but they would represent the most significant step forward in a long debate to date on the remuneration of university athletes. It is a process that, according to administrators, critics, athletes and NCAA officials, has taken too long to catch up with the modern reality of college sports. The NCAA has gradually relaxed the limits on what schools were allowed to provide to their athletes in response to lawsuits from the previous decade. The surge in name, image and likeness over the past year has been sparked by politicians who have created state laws challenging existing NCAA rules.

California became the first state to adopt its Fair Pay to Play law last September. Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley-based state senator, wrote the bill, which says that colleges in her state cannot punish an athlete who accepts money from a third party’s approval or hires a agent to try to take advantage of its popularity. More than two dozen other states have introduced similar legislation following the California law, which is expected to come into force in 2023.

The new proposals would be even more restrictive than what California law will allow. The NCAA said Wednesday morning that it plans to ask members of Congress to create federal legislation that will replace the various state laws and create a uniform standard. The NCAA will also ask Congress to help establish a law that will provide it with a “safe haven” from possible lawsuits against the NIL rules and to make it clear that college sports are different from professional leagues.

NCAA leaders say it’s crucial to maintain the distinction between their organization and professional sports. Amateurism status allows the NCAA to defend itself against lawsuits for violating antitrust laws and to cling to the not-for-profit tax exemptions that are important to the business model of university sports. This unique status has helped the NCAA to carve out a niche for itself in the eyes of federal judges who have ruled that the NCAA limits on what an athlete can receive from their school violate antitrust laws but have determined that schools can continue to apply these caps because university athletes are students, not workers.

NCAA President Mark Emmert is scheduled to answer questions on the new proposal Wednesday morning with Drake, Smith and task force co-chair Val Ackerman.

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