On October 29, the NCAA Board of Governors voted to allow Divisions 1, 2 and 3 to permit athletes to receive compensation for their personal brand or celebrity, while not also becoming employees of their university. The three divisions must change their bylaws by January 2021 and with those changes, ensure that athletes will not be classified as professionals. This change of NCAA policy is likely in response to bills like California’s Fair Pay for Play Act, which mandates that athletes receive fair compensation for their work and will take effect in 2023.
The NCAA has been under siege for years. As the governing body for college sports, it has reaped the rewards of sponsorship contracts for broadcasting rights and shared little with the athletes performing on the field, court, track, diamond, course, or arena. Universities belonging to the Big 5 athletic conferences are additional beneficiaries, awarding multi-million dollar contracts to successful coaches and few benefits beyond college scholarships to their athletes. The NCAA’s dual role as regulator and enforcer is arguably influenced by the value of those big network contracts as evidenced by the verdict of no punishment for the University of North Carolina’s athletic program for steering athletes into “paper classes.” On the surface, one can only assume that the NCAA ordered its attorneys to find a loophole to avoid punishing one of college basketball’s perennially strongest programs.