NCAA Forms Committee to Examine Student-Athletes Profiting off Names, Likenesses

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2019

FILE - In this March 18, 2015, file photo, the NCAA logo is displayed at center court as work continues at The Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, for the NCAA college basketball tournament. The NCAA is opening a door for states with legalized sports gambling to host NCAA championship events. The governing body for college sports on Thursday, May 17, 2018, announced a
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

The NCAA is taking steps toward potentially allowing student-athletes to profit off their own names and likenesses.

The organization announced Tuesday the formation of the NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group.

The working group "will examine the NCAA's position on name, image and likeness benefits and potentially propose rule modifications tethered to education," Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said. 

Ackerman and Ohio State senior vice president Gene Smith will serve as co-chairs of the group.

The rest of the group is mostly made up of conference commissioners, athletic directors and school presidents from all three divisions of NCAA competition, including Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. There are also open spots for one Division I male athlete, one Division I female athlete and one Division III student-athlete.

Likeness rights have been a divisive topic for NCAA programs for several years.

As noted by Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press, former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon brought a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA for profiting off student-athletes' likenesses in 2009. The case resulted in the end of college football and basketball video games, which had previously used only numbers to identify players.

Players were also not allowed to make money by appearing in commercials or signing autographs, causing problems for Johnny Manziel in 2013.

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Any potential rule changes could allow athletes to make money in a variety of ways, including endorsements or even getting a cut of jersey sales.

On the other hand, there will be no moves to create a pay-for-play system.

"While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees," Smith explained. "That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion."