Name, Image, and Likeness Coming Soon to the NCAA


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Villanova athletes will soon be able to receive compensation for their NIL.

Noah Swan, Staff Writer

The NCAA made $18.9 billion in revenue during 2019. Yet, not a cent of that was given to any of the more than 480,000 athletes who take part in college athletics under the domain of the NCAA. Although rumors of illicit payments surface during every recruiting season, amateurism stands strong as a pillar of college athletics. However, the winds of change are whistling in the ears of the NCAA. Name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation is banging on the doors of the NCAA as athletes wish to grow a personal brand. But what does NIL really mean? And what does it mean to Villanova athletes?

Although paying players directly from schools poses many challenges, NIL is a more realistic path to financial benefit for student-athletes across the country. At its core, NIL involves the ability of an athlete to profit from endorsements, private lessons and autograph sessions. For example, Clemson star Trevor Lawrence could host a quarterback camp, or Iowa basketball player Luka Garza could proclaim the greatness of Gatorade in an advertisement. 

The restrictions and benefits for athletes vary between proposals from the NCAA and congressional representatives. The NCAA’s most recent release would restrict an athlete’s interactions with an agent as well as the use of the athlete’s school in promotions, and it would allow the school to veto any potential NIL deals. The document also introduces a watch-dog party to oversee any NIL deals. This aspect is especially important given the amount of money floating around college athletics. Auburn University recently paid more than $20 million to fire its head football coach, Gus Malzahn. Although Malzahn enjoyed success at the school, a small group of boosters quickly raised $10 million to assist with the buyout. This is evidence that boosters in college athletics are wealthy and hungry for success at the highest level. Illegal payments to recruits disguised by NIL could quickly shift the competitive dynamic of nearly every college sport. So, while the NCAA may receive fair criticism for dragging its feet on this issue, there are monumental implications to legislative action. After tabling the proposal in January of this year, the NCAA has shifted the burden of this decision to Congress.

NIL legislation from Washington D.C. varies across the aisle. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat and former Stanford college football player, is a sponsor for a bill termed “a college athletes bill of rights,” per Sports Illustrated. Although this measure extends beyond NIL, it is emblematic of the current shift in power in college athletics. The bill introduces more ways for athletes to earn money, including group licensing deals which could allow the return of the beloved NCAA video game series. 

On the other side of the divide, Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, hands the power to the NCAA to delegate NIL rights. With the help of the Federal Trade Commission, the NCAA under Rubio’s proposal would have the say over any NIL deals, a curious concession given prior struggles to implement a NIL structure in college athletics. These two examples prove the web of complexity encapsulating NIL laws and the difference in opinions among competing parties.

So, what does this look like for Villanova athletics? The short answer is not much right now. NCAA president Mark Emmert approached Congress for help with this issue in late 2019. Florida, Colorado and California have all passed NIL legislation at the state level, with Florida’s law going into effect this July. At the earliest, it will likely be late 2021 to early 2022 before NIL deals affect Villanova. 

However, athletes in Florida may be able to pocket NIL money ahead of athletes in any other state. The University of Florida has already announced new programs designed to build brands for their athletes per 247Sports. The tone of recruiting pitches will adapt as schools, including Villanova, establish different avenues for their athletes to profit to maintain athletic competitiveness. Do not be surprised if you see Jay Wright’s next great point guard hit a game-winning three , then sport his Villanova uniform in a brand-new Toyota Corolla.