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NCAA Reversal: College Athletes Can Now Profit From Their Name, Image and Likeness

”We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,“ says Michael V. Drake, the chairman of the NCAA’s board of governors

The NCAA opened the door on Tuesday to college athletes making money off of their name, image and likeness —  a move that promises to fundamentally shift the business of college sports.

The decision is a stark reversal of the organization’s long aversion to paying student-athletes. The NCAA’s board of governors on Tuesday voted unanimously to allow college athletes to be paid and directed its three divisions to swiftly adopt new rules on their compensation. The rules should be in place no later than January 2021, the board said.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” NCAA Board of Governors chairman and Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake said in a statement. “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.”

For years, student-athletes have been unable to get a cut of the millions of dollars that universities made off of them; college sports video games, for instance, would craft players based on real athletes but avoid using their names. The board’s move would allow college athletes to now earn money on their likeness being used in ads, video games and on merchandise.

Tuesday’s decision comes after a month after California passed its Fair to Play Act, clearing the way for student-athletes to earn money off endorsement deals. The law will go into effect in 2023. The NCAA is continuing to push back against California’s decision, despite its announcement.

As CNBC reported, The NCAA board outlined several “principles and guidelines” for its three divisions to follow, including advocating “diversity, inclusion and gender equity” and making sure to “reaffirm that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.” Perhaps most glaringly, the board adamantly opposed paying college athletes for their performance or participation, calling it “impermissible.”

The board’s proposal also comes after calls for college athletes to be compensated have increased in recent years. Several top prospects have also bypassed the NCAA in favor of earning money overseas before going pro in the U.S., a move first made popular by former NBA point guard Brandon Jennings a decade ago.