NCAA president Mark Emmert said he recommends the association’s board members approve new rules allowing athletes to make money from their name, image and likeness rights this summer.
Emmert told The New York Times on Friday that he’s pushing for approval of NIL guidance “before, or as close to, July 1.”
That date coincides with when new laws in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico are set to take effect that will allow NCAA athletes to in some way profit off their name, image or likeness for the first time. Arizona has a law that will go into practice on July 23. Another half dozen states have laws that will open similar opportunities starting as early as 2022.
A working group appointed by the NCAA to modernize the organization’s approach to NIL deals presented a package of proposed rule changes to association leaders late in 2020. The association was scheduled to vote on the changes this past January but decided to indefinitely postpone any action, citing uncertainty about how federal lawyers would view the change. Members of that group also told ESPN they were interested in seeing how the NCAA’s pending appeal in front of the Supreme Court will play out before moving forward with any rule changes. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on that case at some point in the next two months.
Emmert said in January that the NCAA remained committed to changing its rules in the near future.
“We need to get a vote on these rules that are in front of the members now,” Emmert told The New York Times.
Current NCAA rules do not allow athletes to sign endorsement deals while in school. The NCAA’s proposed changes would still be more restrictive than most of the state laws scheduled to go into effect this summer, which could lead to legal conflicts where schools would have to ignore some NCAA bylaws in order to follow their state’s law even if the NCAA is successful in instituting rule changes.
Emmert and other college sports leaders have asked Congress to help create a national, uniform rule that supersedes state laws and includes enough restrictions to maintain a clear line between college athletes and professionals. Emmert has previously said federal lawmakers would likely have to take action before the NCAA can move forward with its new rules. It’s not clear whether his comments to the Times this week represent a change in that approach.
Several federal bills have been proposed, but it’s unlikely that any of them will be signed into law before July, according to multiple sources on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress who have proposed related legislation have disagreed on the scope of reform needed in college sports, with some suggesting a narrow change to allow for endorsement deals and others hoping to institute much broader changes that would guarantee other rights for athletes, including giving them the power to collectively bargain in the future.