Atlantic 10 AD: Name, image, likeness issue complex for NCAA

Dayton’s Trey Landers, Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher talk on the bench late in a victory against Rhode Island on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I. David Jablonski/Staff
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Dayton’s Trey Landers, Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher talk on the bench late in a victory against Rhode Island on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I. David Jablonski/Staff

Student-athletes will be able to profit off their NLI starting next year

Saint Joseph’s Athletic Director Jill Bodensteiner called it the most complex issue she has ever worked on but fascinating and challenging at the same time.

Speaking on conference call with Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade and Davidson Athletic Director Chris Clunie on Wednesday, Bodensteiner was referring to the name, image and likeness issue. The NCAA announced last week it will allow athletes to profit off those three things for the first time, starting in January 2021. While that ends a long journey of sorts because the issue has been around for years, how it will work is another question.

“It’s really hard,” Bodensteiner said. “I have not seen anyone else submit a complete model. I would love it for all the experts out there to hand us a model that thinks of everything.”

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Bodensteiner said she was a transactional attorney who worked on the Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merger earlier in her career, and even that doesn’t compare to the complicated nature of this issue. However, she said she’s a optimist and expects it all to work out in the end.

“Remember with sports betting when we were having 50 different state laws and we were all in a massive panic?” she said. “So far games are still continuing on with or without sports betting. Remember when students could work? Remember when we made them able to be employees? Everything was just going to change because they could have a job. Things work out. I’m relatively optimistic. Will it be challenging? I love a challenge. I think it’s going to be OK.”

The news comes too late for many athletes. Dayton Flyers star Obi Toppin certainly could have benefited last season. He could have promoted products and cashed in on his status as the nation’s top player. He’ll eventually get to do that in the NBA, of course, but didn’t have the option when he was in college.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, now the top draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Zion Williamson, a star for Duke two seasons ago, are other recent examples of high-profile athletes who could have benefited from the freedom the NCAA will soon give to athletes.

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Clunie said the athletes he has talked to from around the A-10 welcome the change.

“I think they’re appreciative,” Clunie said. “I think it provides so many unique opportunities for scholar-athletes that they should and could be able to take advantage. If I’m funny and I want to go tell jokes at a comedy club in Charlotte, you should be able to do that, right?”

Bodensteiner sees the change as something that could be an equalizer for women athletes.

“Our world of marketing is sexist and biased, and men make more in every aspect of everything we do,” she said, “but there’s some really neat opportunities for women who don’t have the same professional opportunities in their sports in most cases to really take advantage of their peak while they are student athletes.”

The new freedom coming to the athletes isn’t without restrictions. The NCAA will not allow athletes to use the logos or trademarks of their schools in any ads they do for business or on social media or in personal appearances. The NCAA also will regulate agents and advisors.

“We know that there’s going to be a significant enforcement process and accountability and monitoring,” McGlade said, “but on the flip side of it, from the A-10’s perspective, we’re going to do what we can every step of the way to make sure that our institutions or coaches or our student athletes are educated as to the new opportunities now that could be open and available to them.”