NCAA gives extra year of eligibility to winter athletes, is closer to new transfer, NIL rules

Wednesday was a busy day for the NCAA Division I Council.

Not only did it waive bowl eligibility requirements for the 2020 college football season, but it also granted an extra year of eligibility for winter sport athletes, and formally proposed new rules for the one-time transfer exemption and how college athletes can be compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness.

Let’s start with the eligibility portion. The NCAA back in August approved giving all spring and fall sport athletes “an additional year of eligibility and an additional year in which to complete it” via a blanket waiver. It is now doing the same for athletes who participate in winter sports like men’s and women’s basketball.

“The pandemic will continue to impact winter sport seasons in ways we can’t predict. Council members opted to provide for winter sport student-athletes the same flexibility given spring and fall sports previously,” said Penn athletic director M. Grace Calhoun, the chair of the D-I Council. “The actions today ensure the continuation of local decision-making in the best interest of each institution and its student-athletes.”

It’s essentially a free year of eligibility when compared to the usual term of eligibility given to college athletes: five years to complete four seasons of competition. Now, winter sport athletes will have six years to play five.

Transferring without sitting for a year

The NCAA is one step closer to adopting a rule that would allow Division I athletes in all sports to transfer to a new school and compete immediately without having to sit out once during their college career.

Presently, athletes in football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and hockey are required to sit out for a season when they transfer to a new school. The main exception is with athletes who have graduated with remaining eligibility. Those “graduate transfers” are granted immediate eligibility at a new school. Athletes in all other sports can participate immediately following a transfer.

“This proposal creates a uniform, equitable approach for all student-athletes, no matter the sport they play,” said MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, who is the chair of the NCAA’s Transfer Waiver Working Group. “We believe the proposal fulfills the promise of the transfer resolution adopted by the Council in the spring, and trust the membership will strongly consider bringing consistency and predictability to Division I transfer regulations while treating student-athletes across all sports alike and in a sensible fashion.”

Steinbrecher’s group initially came out in support of the change all the way back in February. The proposal has now been formally adopted into the D-I Council’s legislative cycle and will be voted on at the NCAA’s annual convention in January. If approved, it would go into effect for the 2021-22 academic year.

Part of the proposal includes the possibility for the D-I Council to set deadlines on notification of transfer. For fall and winter sport athletes it would be May 1. For spring sport athletes, it would be July 1. Athletes would be required to “provide written notification of transfer to their school.” Some exceptions to those deadlines could be made in instances where a head-coaching change happens.

Final Four flag fly over the headquarter of the NCAA in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Final Four flag fly over the headquarter of the NCAA in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Name, image and likeness payments for athletes

Like with the updated transfer rules, the NCAA has taken another step toward introducing rules that would allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness.

The Division I Council announced its “concepts” for the NIL legislation that is set to be voted on in January at the NCAA convention. The rules would allow athletes to use their name, image and likeness to:

  • “Promote camps and clinics, private lessons, their own products and services and commercial services.”

  • “Receive payment for autographs and personal appearances.”

  • “To crowdfund for nonprofits or charitable organizations, catastrophic events and family hardships, as well as for educational expenses not covered by cost of attendance.”

  • “Use professional advice and marketing assistance regarding name, image and likeness activities, as well as professional representation in contract negotiations related to name, image and likeness activities, with some restrictions.”

Athletes would not be allowed to use their school’s marks in any of their NIL deals, nor would they be permitted to engage in business deals “involving a commercial product or service that conflicts with NCAA legislation.” That includes products affiliated with sports betting or banned substances. The responsibility of disclosing prohibited activities falls on the shoulders of the university “at the time the student is admitted or signs a financial aid agreement.”

Under the Council’s concepts, schools would not be allowed to be involved in any of the athlete’s business deals “unless the [business] activity is part of a student’s coursework or academic program.” Additionally, schools would not be allowed to “arrange or secure endorsement opportunities” for their athletes.

In an effort for transparency, the D-I Council recommends that any NIL deals are disclosed through a third-party administrator. That third party would also assist with “overseeing the disclosure process, monitoring and reporting name, image and likeness activities, and educating key stakeholders, including student-athletes, prospective student-athletes, boosters and professional service providers.”

“This is an important milestone in the progress toward modernizing Division I rules to better support student-athletes in all of their endeavors,” Calhoun said. “We know additional refinements may be needed as we make sure modifications are fair, recognize the importance of the current recruiting structure and that every student-athlete has the same opportunity to benefit.”

Wednesday’s NIL concepts from the D-I Council are the latest step in the process that was approved by the NCAA’s Board of Governors back in April. The Board of Governors agreed that athletes should be allowed to receive compensation for third-party endorsements “both related and separate from athletics” and other opportunities “such as social media, businesses they have started and personal appearances.”

The timeline for these NIL rules to be implemented is January, but there could be Congressional action that supersedes the NCAA’s efforts. Several members of Congress have introduced legislation related to the world of college sports. Additionally, multiple states have their own state laws for name, image and likeness. Congress could end up setting nation-wide standards.

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