Everything you need to know about the NCAA and NIL debate

College sports is in the midst of its most significant changes in a generation. Current athletes, the NCAA, state legislators and members of Congress have all proposed rules that would provide athletes with varying degrees of new protections and opportunities to make money by selling their name, image and likeness (NIL) rights while playing in college.

Who will get the final say in those new rules? How expansive will the new opportunities be? Those questions will be settled in the spring and summer of 2021, and the space below will be dedicated to providing you with the most up-to-date and in-depth information on that process.

Jump to a section: Calendar | Timeline | Legislation | The start

The Latest

The likelihood that a federal law making one clear set of rules for name, image and likeness (NIL) will come to fruition in the near future seemed to shrink considerably in June as members of Congress have settled into a partisan divide about the scope of needed reform.

The Senate Commerce Committee held its sixth hearing on college sports legislation on June 17. The two-hour discussion highlighted the growing rift between Republicans and Democrats. Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) told reporters after the hearing that it was safe to assume that no bill would be put to a vote before state name, image and likeness laws are scheduled to go into effect at the start of July.

The panelists included three female athletes — two recent graduates and one current Vanderbilt student — and Marty McNair, the father of deceased Maryland football player Jordan McNair. They urged Congress to include a baseline of health and safety standards as well as additional rights for college athletes into any legislation aimed at reforming the NCAA’s rules.

“It’s impossible to divorce NIL from health and safety concerns,” former Georgetown basketball player Sari Cureton told the senators Thursday. “Because it is our bodies that built this industry.”

NCAA leaders have asked Congress for help in passing a law that would create a uniform NIL standard across all 50 states. Republicans who have proposed bills say they have attempted to maintain a narrow scope addressing only NIL rules in an effort to pass something quickly. Democrats who have proposed bills argue that now is the time to force more substantial change on the NCAA to help athletes in areas that go beyond giving them the opportunity to make money while in school.

Cureton said that the general public underestimates the priority that coaches place on winning games and athletic departments place on maintaining a good public image. Her fellow panelists, former track and field athlete UCLA Christina Chenault and Vanderbilt runner Kaira Brown, said those priorities often come at the expense of the athletes’ education, health or other needs. They urged Congress to make sure any legislation they pass about college sports keeps the athletes (and not the institutions) as its main focus.

Among the roughly one dozen senators who asked questions and shared comments at the hearing, only one was from the Republican Party. Many of the Republicans who have been at the forefront of NIL legislation decided not to attend the hearing, according to a Sports Illustrated report.

The two sides had been working toward a compromise under Cantwell’s guidance but appear to have reached an impasse. The result is that college athletes will likely have different levels of opportunity to make money from endorsements this summer depending on the state where they attend school.

Calendar: What comes next

May or June: The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Alston v. NCAA antitrust case on March 31. While the case isn’t directly related to name, image and likeness legislation, the question in front of the justices could play a role in how laws are formed later this year. The NCAA is arguing that it should be in charge of defining the line between amateurism and pro sports. The justice’s decision and the language they use in sharing it could prove to be influential in future legal battles. The Supreme Court is expected to publish its decision sometime before the end of June.

June 22-23: The NCAA’s Division I Council is scheduled to meet to discuss multiple options for changing the association’s rules that govern NIL activity.

June 28: The Division I Council has reserved another day to meet and are most likely to reach a decision on if and how to change the NCAA’s rules at the outset of the NIL era.

July 1: State laws are scheduled to begin to go into effect. Athletes who attend school in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas would be able to start accepting endorsement deals on this date. The NCAA might file a lawsuit against the states before July 1 and ask a judge for an injunction that, if granted, could postpone the law’s enactment.

Timeline: How we got here

Sept. 30, 2019: California passes legislation introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner that will, starting in 2023, prohibit schools from punishing athletes who accept endorsement money while in college. The NCAA called the legislation an “existential threat” to college amateur sports when it was introduced months earlier.

Oct. 29, 2019: The NCAA’s board of governors agrees unanimously that it is time to modernize its name, image and likeness rules. The board directs all three NCAA divisions to make rules by January 2021 that allow athletes to make endorsement money while maintaining “the collegiate model.”

April 29, 2020: A working group appointed by the NCAA lays out its suggestions for how Division I should change its rules, including details about the opportunities and restrictions for future athlete deals. The Division I Council formally submitted these proposed changes in November 2020 with plans to put them to a vote in January 2021.

June 12, 2020: Florida passes its state law with a scheduled effective date of July 1, 2021, that significantly decreases the time to create a uniform national solution.

July 22, 2020: Emmert, the NCAA president, repeats a request for congressional help in creating a federal NIL law while appearing at a Senate hearing in Washington, D.C. Several senators urged Emmert and the NCAA to broaden the scope of their reform efforts if they wanted help from Capitol Hill.

Aug. 2, 2020: A group of Pac-12 football players threatens to boycott the season while sharing a list of demands that included giving players a share of athletic department revenue. A similar group of national stars formed a week later and stated its intent to form a college football players’ association in the future.

Sept. 24, 2020: Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., introduce a federal bill that would allow for NIL deals with some restrictions in hopes of keeping endorsements from disrupting the recruiting process.

Dec. 10, 2020: Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., introduces federal legislation that would allow for some NIL deals and also create an antitrust exemption that would protect the NCAA from some types of future lawsuits.

Dec. 16, 2020: The Supreme Court agreed to hear the NCAA’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling in the Alston v. NCAA antitrust lawsuit. While not directly related to NIL rules, the Supreme Court’s decision in this case could impact how much control the NCAA has in defining amateurism in the future.

Dec. 17, 2020: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduce legislation calling for a wide-reaching overhaul of NCAA rules and college sports governance.

Jan. 11, 2021: The NCAA’s Division 1 Council decides to indefinitely delay its vote on name, image and likeness rules, citing concerns prompted by a letter from the Department of Justice related to the possible antitrust implications of changing its rules. Emmert, the NCAA president, said he was “frustrated and disappointed” by the delay.

Feb. 4, 2021: Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., introduce federal legislation that would create a completely unrestricted market for college athlete endorsement deals.

March 31, 2021: The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Alston v. NCAA antitrust lawsuit.

April 1, 2021: NCAA president Mark Emmert met with three men’s basketball players trying to raise awareness — using the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty — for what they see as unfair treatment of college athletes. The players asked the NCAA to adopt a temporary blanket waiver that would allow all athletes to make money from endorsement deals next school year while more permanent decisions take shape.

June 18, 2021: Six conference heads (including the ACC, SEC and Pac-12 leaders) propose a new plan that would make individual schools responsible for creating their own NIL policies. The new proposal surfaced after a pair of Senate hearings in June made it clear that a federal law was not imminent.

Legislation

The NCAA has asked Congress for help in creating a federal NIL law. While several federal options have been proposed, it’s becoming increasingly likely that state laws will start to go into effect before a nationwide change is made. There are six states with NIL laws already in place and more than a dozen others that are actively pursuing legislation.

States with laws in place
Alabama — Passed: April 2021. Goes into effect: July 1, 2021.
Arizona — Passed: March 2021. Goes into effect: July 23, 2021.
Arkansas – Passed: April 2021. Goes into effect: Jan. 1, 2022.
California — Passed: September 2019. Goes into effect: Jan. 1, 2023.
Colorado — Passed: March 2020. Goes into effect: Jan. 1, 2023.
Florida — Passed: June 2020. Goes into effect: July 1, 2021.
Georgia — Passed: May 2021. Goes into effect: July 1, 2021.
Maryland — Passed: May 2021. Goes into effect: July 1, 2023.
Michigan — Passed: December 2020. Goes into effect: Dec. 31, 2022.
Mississippi — Passed: April 2021. Goes into effect: July 1, 2021.
Montana — Passed: April 2021. Goes into effect: June 1, 2023.
Nebraska — Passed: July 2020. Goes into effect: No later than July 1, 2023 (schools can implement new policy at any time).
Nevada — Passed: June 2021. Goes into effect: Jan. 1, 2022.
New Jersey — Passed: September 2020. Goes into effect: September 2025.
New Mexico — Passed: April 2021. Goes into effect: July 1, 2021.
Oklahoma — Passed: May 2021. Goes into effect: July 1, 2023.
South Carolina — Passed: May 2021. Goes into effect: July 1, 2022.
Tennessee — Passed: May 2021. Effective date: Jan. 1, 2022.
Texas — Passed: June 2021. Effective date: July 1, 2021.

States with bills in legislative process
There are 11 states with bills actively moving through the legislative process: Connecticut (2021), Illinois (2021), Louisiana (2021), Massachusetts (2022), Missouri (2021), New York (2021), North Carolina (2024), Ohio (2021), Oregon (2021), Pennsylvania (2021), Rhode Island (2022).

Where it all started

play

2:52

Dan Murphy explains the landmark “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which would allow financial compensation for collegiate athletes in California.

ESPN

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