When the NCAA’s interim policy on name, image and likeness went into effect on July 1, the rules of engagement effectively changed right in the middle of the summer amateur golf season. It made some college golfers leery of the landscape and left them treading lightly where NIL was concerned so as not to jeopardize their amateur status.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Golf Association addressed the updated NIL policy and how it fits into its Rules of Amateur Status by announcing it would waive most NIL-related breaches for college golfers through the end of the year as long as the player retains his or her NCAA playing eligibility.
The USGA already had proposed modifications to its Rules of Amateur Status in February, putting them up for review and soliciting feedback before a planned adoption at the start of 2022. The new rules, if adopted, would marry nicely with the NCAA’s NIL policy but also generally simplify the USGA’s definition of amateurism.
Note that the USGA’s response to NIL does not waive the Rules of Amateur Status entirely for college golfers, and amateurs not currently on a college golf roster should be particularly careful. Thus, the USGA has not opened a free-for-all for all amateur golfers, but rather tried to address a short period of uncertainty for those players who identify as both a college and amateur player.
For instance, the current Rule 6, Use of Golf Skill or Reputation, under the USGA’s Rules of Amateur Status still prohibits college golfers from earning money by providing golf instruction and giving lessons.
According to a USGA memo on NIL: “The interim approach is intended to provide a short-term solution that has the minimum impact possible on the amateur game and administrators until the new Rules of Amateur Status come into effect and we believe that by adopting this interim position for collegiate golfers only, we are minimizing the impact on administrators, while trying to ensure that collegiate golfers attending the same institution can receive the same benefits from use of their name, image and likeness.”
The USGA identified three guiding principles for college golfers navigating the NIL landscape but still wanting to compete as an amateur golfer:
The NIL-related actions are allowed under the NCAA’s interim policy.
He or she remains on a team roster while the NIL-related activities take place.
There are no other breaches of the Rules of Amateur Status in connection with the NIL activities. An example of this would be providing golf instruction, which while still OK per the NCAA is not allowed under the Rules of Amateur Status.
In addition to providing guidance for student-athletes, the USGA’s clarifying memo on NIL also provides guidance for tournament directors, which includes the suggestion that a question be added to tournament entry forms that would help identify which players have taken actions to benefit from their NIL or even that a specific tournament adopt its own policy on logos, promotions, advertisements, etc. (albeit well in advance of the competition).
Any college golfer who is planning to benefit from the new NIL policy should, the USGA notes, be prepared to provide proof of NCAA eligibility before competing in an amateur golf competition.