The NCAA created more questions than answers with its announcement on Oct. 29 it will allow student-athletes to profit off the use of their names, images and likenesses at some point in the future.
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It was a big step toward giving student-athletes more freedom, but it’s too soon to say how the NCAA will implement the changes. Local coaches and university officials are wary of saying much at this time because there still are so many unknowns.
“I’m always going to be pro whatever benefits our players,” Dayton Flyers men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant said. “I think there’s still a lot to be determined in terms of what the NCAA decides to do with the decisions they’ve made. I’m not sure I know enough to be able to tell you one wary or the other. I know there are some things politically with different states that are going on in conjunction with what the NCAA is going to do. I’m probably taking a wait-and-see approach to see where it goes, but certainly, you want your guys to have the opportunity to benefit as much as possible from whatever the legislation allows them to have.”
Wright State men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy also agrees with giving athletes these new rights.
“No. 1, we live in America,” Nagy said, “and if you can make money off your likeness or your name, I don’t see why that would be a problem. I think how they regulate it could be a problem because if you have fans or boosters who are very interested in these players who’s going to decide how much money you can pay them to do something and who’s going to decide if that’s too much or that’s not enough. So I think there could be some problems that way, but I don’t see a problem with people being able to make money off their likeness, particularly if other people are.”
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The NCAA wants to modernize without turning its student-athletes into professionals. In its list of recommendations, the NCAA Board of Governors said it doesn’t want athletes to be treated as employees, and it doesn’t want them paid for athletic performance. Getting paid to sign autographs or promoting products might be among the things athletes are allowed to do, but it’s too early to speculate.
“We support the concept that provides student-athletes with more opportunities to reasonably benefit from their name or image,” said Neil Sullivan, Dayton’s athletic director, “provided the NCAA can establish appropriate safeguards against abuse and we preserve that clear distinction between college and professional sports. Clearly, that’s a work in progress.”
Sullivan hopes however the NCAA modifies its bylaws, college sports will be in a position to endure the changes.
“I think when we get into individual situations of how we think it will impact us,” he said, “it’s just far too early to know or have a strong opinion on specific details about how it will all play out.”
Wright State Athletic Director Bob Grant had a similar thought process when asked about the issue.
“While we are aware of the announcement by the NCAA’s Board of Governors,” Grant said, “we cannot be sure yet how much that it will directly impact us here at Wright State. We in college athletics must continually adapt, albeit in a sensible manner, but our duty will always be to support our own Raider student-athletes first and foremost. We look forward to contributing to the discussion on the national level.”
The NCAA has taken a number of steps in recent years to give athletes more rights or improve their situations away from the fields or courts.
A cost-of-attendance stipend was introduced in 2015. NCAA athletes started receiving extra money on top of their scholarships to help cover the cost of travel home, to buy pizza or go the movies — or whatever they wanted to do with the money.
Transfer rules have also been relaxed in recent years with more and more athletes being allowed to transfer and play right away instead of sitting out a year, though it’s often still a mystery why some athletes their waivers approved while some don’t. Dayton basketball player Chase Johnson won his appeal this fall, while former Flyer Frankie Policelli, now at Stony Brook, did not.
At Miami University, Athletic Director David Sayler would like to see the NCAA put its focus on making it easier for athletes to turn pro. Baseball players who enroll in college must wait three years before they can be drafted. The NFL also doesn’t draft players until they’re three years removed from high school. Players who want to go to the NBA have to wait one year.
“If you have a lot of kids who don’t really want to be in college but they’re there to try to make the pros, you’re going to have problems,” Sayler said.
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Sayler prefers the NHL rule. The Miami RedHawks have seven players currently on NHL rosters, he said, and some left school after one year, while others stayed for two years and some graduated before turning pro.
“They come into college with a NHL team owning their rights,” Sayler said. “They’re drafted before they even come to Miami. The team and advisers and parents look every year to see if they should go pro or go back to school. They make the best decision based on where that kid is.”
Sayler will wait and see what the NCAA does with the name, image and likeness issue before making any final judgments.
“As I’ve heard a lot of people say, the devil is in the details,” he said. “They did announce they’re looking at it further but didn’t really give a lot of guidance as to what that’s going to look like. I think they tried to create some guide rails we’re going to follow and not sacrifice to get there. I guess my take overall is I’m very concerned when you try to legislate something that 1 to 2 percent of the student population might actually benefit from and you try to set a rule that applies across (all college sports), and I’m just not sure how that’s going to happen. I’m skeptical there’s going to be a good, clean-cut solution for this.”
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith, who is a member of the NCAA working group studying the issue of athletes receiving addition compensation, said discussions will continue between now and April. He's not sure what will emerge from those talks but doesn't expect a vote until 2021.
“I haven’t had a chance to sit down with my colleagues in the Big 10,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to that conversation to discuss those type of things, but I’m very supportive of the effort to try and figure something out.”
Ohio State is the type of high-profile program with five-star recruits that would most benefit from the ability to make money of their names, images and likenesses. Smith was asked about Braxton Miller, the Wayne High School graduate who spent five years at Ohio State and could have had strong earning power during those years.
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Miller commented on the issue on Twitter in October, saying the NCAA decision was long overdue.
“When he’s here, it’s easy to manage,” Smith said. “So the difficult space that all of us have to think about is prior to that. When he’s a recruit, how do we mitigate recruiting inducements? How do we mitigate third-party engagement? How do we address those recruits who create their businesses in the 10th grade and ultimately want to go to a place that has conflicts with those businesses? So there’s a lot of elements.
“Once they’re here, to me that’s easy. It’s the recruiting part that I think that all of us need to really take our time and make sure we don’t create significant challenges in that space. Then there are the other pieces. We’re all focused on the 1 percent. Braxton’s a perfect example of that. But there’s a lot of other athletes who are not on full-ride scholarship so they live in debt. So how do we make sure we legislate them and provide them opportunities? You know, as opposed to just focusing on the 1 percent?”