The NCAA’s Board of Governors this week supported altered rule changes to allow student-athletes to “receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related to and separate from athletics.” The NCAA’s three divisions are expected to adopt the new policy by January of next year in order for the rules to take effect at the start of the 2021-22 academic year. In addition, the NCAA also supports compensation for other student-athlete opportunities — such as social media followings — and business ventures.

According to the NCAA, “student-athletes would be permitted to identify themselves by sport and school, the use of conference and school logos, trademarks or other involvement would not be allowed.”

“The NCAA’s work to modernize name, image and likeness continues, and we plan to make these important changes on the original timeline, no later than January 2021,” said Ohio State AD Gene Smith, a working group co-chair, said in a release. “The board’s decision today provides further guidance to each division as they create and adopt appropriate rules changes.”

The NCAA’s support of compensation for student-athlete opportunities in social media and business must follow the previously-established “guiding principles.”

“Throughout our efforts to enhance support for college athletes, the NCAA has relied upon considerable feedback from and the engagement of our members, including numerous student-athletes, from all three divisions,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and president of Ohio State. “Allowing promotions and third-party endorsements is uncharted territory.”

According to the release and past NCAA statements, the principles and guidelines for compensation are as follows:

  • Ensuring student-athletes are treated similarly to nonathlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate.
  • Maintaining the priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.
  • Ensuring rules are transparent, focused and enforceable, and facilitating fair and balanced competition.
  • Making clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities.
  • Making clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible.
  • Reaffirming that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.
    Enhancing principles of diversity, inclusion and gender equity.
  • Protecting the recruiting environment and prohibiting inducements to select, remain at or transfer to a specific institution.

In October 2019, the Board of Governors voted unanimously “to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

“(The) NCAA appears ready to allow college athletes to profit from their names, images & likenesses, but not in a free market,” legal analyst and lawyer Darren Heitner tweeted on Wednesday. “Instead, “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” I don’t believe it will be enough. I’m concerned with a restricted market controlled by the NCAA.

What does this mean for a potential return of the popular EA Sports NCAA Football video game?

Lawsuits over athlete likeness, including the landmark proceedings of Ed O’Bannon, ended the game’s circulation with the 2014 version. The courts ruled EA Sports had used athlete likeness without permission or compensation. EA Sports eventually paid out $60 million in settlements to athletes who appeared in its games between 2003-14, according to CBS Sports.

Writes 247Sports national analyst Chris Hummer, “the NCAA did not renew its licensing agreement with EA, and though recent Madden games have featured colleges – EA individually licenses the brands from the schools – there has been little movement toward a new flagship college football game.”

EA Sports would be open to making the game again, according to former NCAA Football Executive Producer Ben Haumiller. 247Sports reached out to EA Sports last year for the latest on where game developers are in the process and the likelihood it ever happens.

“We loved making college football games,” Haumiller told 247Sports via email. “If the opportunity ever presented itself we’d be very interested in potentially getting back into that space.”