NCAA caves on allowing student athletes to accept monetary compensation

Fireworks at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. Source: Wikimedia

As Florida considers following California’s lead on allowing college athletes to accept outside compensation, the NCAA’s governing board has voted unanimously to acquiesce on an issue it had previously strongly opposed.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” board chairman Michael Drake, president of The Ohio State University, said in a written statement Tuesday.

“Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”

The organization is willing to let athletes profit from the use of their names, images, and likenesses “in a matter consistent with the collegiate model” but they could not collect pay directly for their athletic performances.

California passed a law allowing such payments on Sept. 30, and other states have been looking at the idea.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who played intercollegiate baseball at Yale, called a news conference on Thursday to ask the Legislature to pass a law that would “maintain college athletics as being a really special thing, but also provide the ability of our student athletes to benefit just like anybody else would be able to benefit.”

On Tuesday, the governor noted that third parties can sell athletes’ sports memorabilia but they themselves are not allowed to. “There’s no other part of college where they can use your name, image, and likeness without your consent, or without you being able to share in that,” he said.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have introduced bills to achieve that end, and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat, endorsed the idea Monday, cementing its bipartisan support.

One bill (HB 251), sponsored by Miami Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee, would allow athletes to derive income from commercial deals beginning in 2023. He would create a task force to oversee implantation should the measure become law.

“I am pleased to see the NCAA is finally following the lead of Florida and others to allow student athletes to earn money for the use of their name, image, and likeness,” McGhee said in a written statement Tuesday.

“While this is a great first step, we must insure Florida’s student athletes are provided fair treatment and long-term protections found in my bill.”

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.