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Questions and Answers on Name, Image and Likeness

Updated May 2021

What is the latest development on name, image and likeness rules for student-athletes?

Each NCAA division has developed specific proposals to further modernize these rules for student-athletes. The proposals are based on the action the NCAA Board of Governors took at its April 28, 2020 meeting, which outlines specific categories in which student-athletes could earn compensation from their name, image and likeness.

What specific elements did the Board of Governors approve at its April 28, 2020 meeting?

The board approved the areas for modernizing name, image and likeness rules for student-athletes. When approved by the NCAA membership, these rules would allow:

  • Compensation for third-party endorsements related to athletics, without school or conference involvement.
  • Compensation for other student-athlete opportunities, such as social media, new businesses, and personal appearances, without institutional involvement or the use of trademarks/logos.

The board emphasized that at no point should a school pay student-athletes for name, image and likeness activities.

What happens next?

Several state laws covering name, image and likeness go into effect on July 1, 2021. Committees across all three divisions of governance are working to provide a solution at that time.

What about guardrails for future name, image and likeness activities for student-athletes?

The Board of Governors is requiring guardrails around any future name, image and likeness activities. These would include no such activities that are pay for play or have any school or conference involvement; no use of name, image and likeness for recruiting by schools or boosters; and the regulation of agents and advisors.

What is the status of the Federal and State Legislation Working Group?

The working group was created to represent the breadth and diversity of the NCAA membership and provide feedback from across the Association. The group provided updated recommendations to the Board of Governors in April. Its work is now finished, and it will no longer meet.

What did the Presidential Subcommittee on Congressional Action recommend regarding Congress?

Formed as part of the Federal and State Legislation Working Group, the presidential subcommittee was directed to provide input on the potential assistance the NCAA should seek from Congress to support the modernization of rules.

The subcommittee’s recommendations were adopted by the Board of Governors and call for engaging Congress on the following items:

  • Action to preempt various state legislation on name, image and likeness.
  • Establishing a “safe harbor” for the Association to provide protection against lawsuits filed for name, image and likeness rules.
  • Safeguarding the nonemployment status of student-athletes.
  • Maintaining the distinction between college and pro sports.
  • Upholding NCAA values, including diversity, inclusion and gender equity.

The subcommittee also recommended supporting broader modernization of NCAA rules in student-athlete well-being, including academics, health and safety, and overall campus experience.

Are the three NCAA divisions developing separate approaches versus one NCAA approach for all student-athletes?

Yes. The Board of Governors directed each division to create rules using the principles and guidelines it approved in October 2019 and the recommendations it approved April 28, 2020. There are many examples now where each NCAA division has different rules, including in areas such as recruiting, financial aid, and playing and practice seasons. As a fundamental framework of the Association, member schools choose the division in which they compete and agree to follow the rules within that division. All three divisions will implement changes consistent with the principles within the NCAA constitution and endorsed by the Board of Governors.

Why didn’t the NCAA address this issue before now?

NCAA members continually strive to improve the student-athlete experience, including paying close attention to the changing environment of the student body and within higher education. After taking action to improve academic support, provide the cost of attendance, guarantee scholarships and strengthen health and safety, among many changes, the NCAA membership determined that exploring this issue was an important next step to support student-athletes. NCAA leadership also determined that the membership must respond to federal and state legislative proposals that would be harmful to a national, uniform college athletics model.

How does the uniqueness of the college sports recruiting environment affect this issue?

Recruiting is one of the key principles that sets the college student model of sports apart from professional sports. Changes to name, image and likeness rules for student-athletes should support the integrity of the recruiting environment and not result in any undue influence on a student’s choice of where to attend college.

Why does the NCAA oppose state legislation on the name, image and likeness of college athletes?

It is critical that college sports are regulated at a national level. This ensures the uniformity of rules and a level playing field for student-athletes. Some of these laws allow for nearly unregulated use of NIL by student-athletes, while other bills under consideration would erode the NCAA’s ability to maintain the collegiate model even further, undermining the NCAA’s model of amateur intercollegiate athletics and threatening to transform student-athletes into paid professional employees of their schools. The evolving legal and legislative landscape around these issues could not only undermine college sports as a part of higher education but also significantly limit the NCAA’s ability to meet the needs of college athletes moving forward.

Why is federal NIL legislation important to support college athletes?

A federal, nationwide solution for name, image and likeness is necessary and would provide student-athletes across the country a fair, uniform collegiate experience and help ensure that opportunities provided to hundreds of thousands of student-athletes participating in nonrevenue sports continue to be supported. The Association looks forward to working with Congress to enact legislation that ensures a federal solution to NIL legislation, provides narrow safe harbor protections against ongoing litigation and reaffirms the nonemployment status of student-athletes. This approach will provide for a uniform name, image and likeness approach that will result in fair, national competition for all student-athletes and protect and ensure opportunities for future student-athletes.