NCAA official: Some will be surprised by 'robust' name, image and likeness proposals

The NCAA has plenty on its plate dealing with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but it is still moving forward with its commitment to allow student-athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses.

In an interview posted on the NCAA’s social media channels, NCAA vice president for Division I Kevin Lennon said the group formed to tackle NIL legislation has reached a place where it can begin to share the proposed concepts throughout NCAA membership.

Lennon thinks some will be surprised by “how far these recommendations are going,” which he repeatedly described as “robust.”

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“There may be some who are actually a little bit surprised, candidly, at how far these recommendations are going and how robust they are,” Lennon said. “I think people will be very impressed by the thoughtful nature in terms of how we’re going to go about helping our young people.”

NCAA aims to stay within ‘collegiate model’

The NCAA first said back in October — on the heels of significant political pressure — that it had started a process to consider a world where college athletes could be compensated for the commercial use of their image. Since then, a group chaired by Penn athletic director M. Grace Calhoun and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has worked toward assembling NIL concepts that would be compliant with the “collegiate model.”

Lennon said the proposed recommendations do just that, avoiding a “pay-for-play” model, and that leaders across the NCAA are on board with the initiative.


“I’ve seen a great confidence that our membership has that this is the right thing to do,” Lennon said. “We do need to have the right parameters to make sure that it is not a pay-for-play model, that we don’t create a employer-employee relationship and that we protect the integrity of the recruiting process.

“But even with those parameters, there is lots of room for growth and change. I’ve been really impressed with the membership that says this is the right thing to do. They’re interested in the specifics and we’re very excited to provide them with the insights of those specifics coming up for the April council meeting.”

Lennon said details on the proposed ideas will be mailed out to membership this week with a webinar for Division I Council and conference commissioners set for April 16. The Division I Council will meet in full on April 24 with NIL issues on the agenda. From there, legislation will continue to be discussed and ironed out before an anticipated vote at the NCAA convention in January 2021.

Meanwhile, multiple states have pursued legislation to allow college athletes to make money from their likenesses. In Florida, for example, a bill has been approved and is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2021.


How might NIL compensation work?

Earlier this week, the Knight Commission published a set of NIL principles and recommendations that it previously sent to the NCAA. The Commission laid out five “guiding principles” in its recommendations.

Most broadly, college athletes would earn compensation from “sources other than their institutions” while following a model that still distinguishes college sports from professional sports. Athletes would be permitted to use assistance from “licensed third-party professionals” to best maximize their endorsement opportunities.

Final Four flag fly over the headquarter of the NCAA in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
The NCAA Division I Council is set to meet on name, image and likeness rights later this month. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Commission’s recommendations specified that the payment would come from the name-brand value of the athlete separate from the value associated with the university the athlete attends. The Knight Commission believes that NIL opportunities that stem from a university’s brand would fall under “pay for play.”


Specifically, trademarks or logos associated with universities or conferences would not be permitted in commercial NIL opportunities for college athletes. However, athletes would be allowed to “identify themselves as a team member or student” of their specific university or conference.

Under the Knight Commission’s guidelines, universities would be required to educate their athletes about their NIL opportunities. Additionally, future NIL opportunities would not be part of a university’s recruiting pitch to an athlete and oversight of NIL rights and rules would be overseen by “an entity led by a board with a majority of independent directors who are not employed by the NCAA or its member institutions.”

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