Some college athletes are on the verge of a payday worth millions of dollars when the laws in at least five states upend a century of rules regarding students playing as unpaid amateurs. On July 1, in some states, athletes will be able to monetize their Instagram account, secure endorsements and hire agents.
There is also a meeting on the books for a powerful NCAA committee to vote and extending similar opportunities to college athletes across the country. Congress is now moving on the issue as well – the Senate had a hearing on this matter recently in a step that can lead to a vote on new legislation on this issue.
Still illegal at least until July 1
Student-athletes still cannot:
- Endorse products
- Get paid to sign autographs
- Actively promote sports camps where they teach
- Compete collegiately in a sport where they have an agent representing them
Schools still have much power
Georgia made national news a month ago when it signed a bill into law where schools could keep as much as 75% of the student-athletes pay by outside sponsors. This would seem to be a huge problem for Georgia coaches recruiting top-tier talent. There are other powers the school likely will hold onto – these include:
- Not paying their athletes, leaving that to others.
- Nixing student deals that clash with the school’s sponsorships.
- Holding onto all the money from those extremely lucrative TV deals.
- Potentially suing states that violate its current rules.
Many fear that state legislatures will trip over themselves to extend sweetheart rules to athletes to compete in the state. This could shift the power dynamic of top-tier programs. Moreover, Congress is busy running the country amidst the continuing fallout of social upheaval and the COVID-related economic downturn, so federal laws could take time.
The NCAA can increase its pace of change, but nearly every program has been hit hard by the economic downturn and pandemic, so schools and programs are struggling as they shut down minor sports that cost too much. Adding insult to injury, the Department of Justice, late in the Trump presidency, took up an investigation of the NCAA involving antitrust concerns. The NCAA never moves quickly, but the July 1 deadline looms, and there could be other unresolved issues that would be very problematic if the association continues to move slowly.