The NCAA cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday. An agenda-setting panel voted unanimously to begin modifying NCAA bylaws in areas that prevent student-athletes from profiting off their name and likeness. It can affect all sports, most notably major properties like the Georgia football team.
It was the first step in addressing a recent political climate that has seen double-digit state legislatures propose bills to help student-athletes receive compensation for the marketing of their personal brand.
The news that came out on Tuesday was long overdue in a lot of ways. For many, this has been a long topic of debate.
Joe Football Star can’t afford to take his girlfriend to the movies. Yet his No. 11 Nike jersey hangs for sale in the school bookstore for $99. That’s his number on that piece of licensed apparel. The university makes money on that. He does not.
That’s even though the demand for that No. 7 or No. 11 would not be there save for the talents he puts on display every Saturday.
The classic arguments are still there: Art students can sell their work while still in school. Graphic designers and music majors can profit from their talents. Computer science majors qualify for well-paid internships. Journalism students can get paid to report, too.
The student-athlete? They are broke all the time. That’s while their coaches now command seven-figure deals and the TV payouts for a behemoth like the Southeastern Conference seemingly set all-time records on an annual basis.
The most recent 8-year extension between CBS and the NCAA for rights to the men’s basketball tournament was for $8.8 billion dollars. That deal, signed in 2016, now runs through 2032.
Is the playing field about to be leveled?
That answer seems complicated.
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) October 29, 2019
An ESPN.com report from earlier today summarized the results from an NCAA board of governors panel which was tabbed to find ways to modify the rules in the way of students profiting from their name and image. The hope was to find a fine line between amateurism and professional sports.
The board met on Tuesday in Atlanta on the campus of Emory University. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East commissioner Val Ackerman presented their recommendations. They have been working for months on ways to confront this issue.
The 32 student-athletes of an NCAA advisory council also presented their recommendations to the board this morning, too. Their message, as embedded below, was clear and to the point.
The Federal & State Legislative Working Group are presenting their recommendations on name, image and likeness this morning. Today, as representatives of the 170,000+ Division 1 student-athletes, we publicly share our thoughts as well. We are the 100%.https://t.co/UFViHVqUd2 pic.twitter.com/hqPWUe8QIj
— Division I SAAC (@Div1SAAC) October 29, 2019
To summarize: Athletes should be allowed to create their own brands. If the market allows for it, they will even be able to profit off of it. Provided that the new legislation allows them to preserve the differences between college and pro sports. It won’t be like NASCAR out there on Saturdays or during the NCAA basketball tournament. It can also carry unintended consequences. The vast majority of NCAA student-athletes are not going to be able to market their likeness for major compensation at any point in their athletic careers.
The topic brings to mind a lot of things. But not autograph shows and generic headshots.
See the mouthpiece that D’Andre Swift wears in the photo below? That’s an example of what might work under a new agreement going forward.
Swift could market those mouthpieces. Potentially. A better vehicle would be T-shirts with his own “SE7EN ERA ” or “Beyond Blessed” logos.
With more and more states passing legislation to allow athletes to receive compensation for their name and likeness, the news of the day was not a surprise.
It was highly likely that the NCAA would step in and try to adopt uniform legislation. The events of the day are the first step toward those future models.
The news of the day: What does it really mean?
With this topic, there will be knee-jerk reactions. What does it mean for recruiting? Which school will now be able to find corporate partners to pair up with potential 5-star recruits?
Which schools will open up the vault? How will it be regulated? How will it not?
Recruiting advantages should be nill. The incoming prospects, except for rare cases, won’t be able to monetize their brand to the same dollar figures current stars will.
Let’s effort a stab at what that might actually look like. Using UGA football as a litmus. If any UGA athletes can make money off their name and game, it will be the stars from the Sanford Stadium stage.
How many athletes on the team currently have the name and branding to qualify for a five-figure ad?
A key point to think about here: The marketing message will not be connected with UGA in any way. That means those Bulldogs will be shooting or filming those commercials away from the school’s athletic facilities. They will not wear or feature any of the school’s intellectual property at that.
Which UGA athletes are still viable in those conditions?
It will have to be an athlete-driven ad. Not a marketing message connected to UGA or the football program.
What about a $50,000 or $100,00 deal? Fromm? Swift? Maybe? Neither of those seems likely.
There are talking points. And then there are the reality points. Those were addressed in a recent Forbes.com article that stemmed from the California legislation that got all of this started.
In that article, author Kristi Dosh muted a lot of the expected talking points from new legislation with several quick points. She asks the question if this new movement is more of a moral victory than a future windfall for NCAA athletes. Then she backs it up with cold data.
Dosh does so going brick-by-brick with several fundamental ways NCAA athletes could hypothetically earn endorsement income for their likenesses:
- Minor deals with drink companies or local merchants should be possible
- Student-athletes will likely be prohibited from deals with companies that are either not already an athletic department sponsor or in direct competition with a current sponsor.
- Professionals get big checks from shoe deals. Those will be likely unavailable to student-athletes. Can you imagine a Georgia football or basketball player signing a deal with a company that competes with the lucrative UGA Nike partnership?
- Like most coaches, the student-athletes will not be allowed to film or shoot their ads on campus or inside school athletic facilities. The only exception would be national companies like Ford which bills itself as the official truck of the Georgia Bulldogs. Everyone has seen that Kirby Smart “tough kid from Bainbridge” ad so far this year.
- The monies and potential royalties down the road for an athlete’s jersey being sold on campus or their likeness appearing in an NCAA video game will not be the windfall most might expect.
New NCAA proposals: Something else to think about
The student-athletes will be taxed on any revenue they accrue from licensing their name and likeness to a marketing partner, too. That aspect of this whole “letting them earn money off their names” should also be taken into consideration.
If college athletes are going to make money off their likenesses while in school, their scholarships should be treated like income. I’ll be introducing legislation that subjects scholarships given to athletes who choose to “cash in” to income taxes. https://t.co/H7jXC0dNls
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) October 29, 2019
The reality here is to think about an established player like Fromm (or a Nick Chubb or Sony Michel in their time) appearing in a marketing message for a hometown auto dealer. Or perhaps a local business.
Those payouts will not be vast. The best income stream might come from an athlete being able to cobble together several minor payouts around their campus community or back in their hometowns.
If athletes are prevented from going after big-name and national brands, how will that impact the university? That is a big question.
Could there soon be a protocol where athletes submit a marketing proposal to their school that allows them to seek out the companies they can partner with for business opportunities?
That’s something smart folks that happen to also be the parents of potential “name brand” athletes will think about. When that comes up, the name Hunter Renfrow comes to mind.
Renfrow stayed at Clemson for what seems like half-a-decade. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass to beat Alabama for the national title. He was just a fifth-round NFL Draft pick. Yet he’s not yet saturated all over billboards and commercials in the Clemson market yet, right?
That’s even when there are no restrictions on a beloved former Tiger. He no longer has any NCAA limitations on the sponsorships he can seek out.
How many Chubb or Michel ads are in the Atlanta market right now? That’s a parallel point, too.
Fromm might be a perfect opportunity for a hunting or fishing ad because that would remove his brand from the UGA stratosphere of marketing partners and potential conflicts.
His reputation as an avid outdoorsman would make him an ideal spokesman at that point across the state of Georgia. It would have nothing to do specifically with football, but just off his marketing appeal created by his ability to play winning football for the Bulldogs.
These changes will likely go above board after his time is up, but it might have given him the platform to host that hunting and fishing show he’s always wanted to do.
Is this already something that forward-thinking athletes have in mind? That answer is yes. Georgia RB commitment Kendall Milton has already seen to creating his own logo which will follow him throughout his time at Georgia.
Swift was aware of that, too. His followers on social media the last few years have seen a constant peppering of that “SE7EN ERA” branding. The cameras have, too.
That’s what this is all about.