By Mark Nagi

It’s been a long time in coming.

Finally, it appears that collegiate athletes will be allowed by the NCAA to receive compensation for their own name, image and likeness.

“Throughout our efforts to enhance support for college athletes, the NCAA has relied upon considerable feedback from and the engagement of our members, including numerous student-athletes, from all three divisions,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the NCAA Board of Governors and president of Ohio State. “Allowing promotions and third-party endorsements is uncharted territory.”

This isn’t going to happen overnight. Nothing with the NCAA is ever that simple. So, don’t expect Tennessee linebacker Henry To’o To’o to set up autograph sessions at the local car dealership come September. Vols basketball players won’t be tweeting in November how an area restaurant is their favorite place to eat.

But we are getting there.

“The NCAA’s work to modernize name, image and likeness continues, and we plan to make these important changes on the original timeline, no later than January 2021,” said Gene Smith, Ohio State senior vice president and athletics director and working group co-chair. “The board’s decision today (April 29) provides further guidance to each division as they create and adopt appropriate rules changes.”

As a fan of college sports (which I enjoy considerably more than the pros), and someone that has covered SEC athletics for decades, I’ve seen the hypocrisy of the NCAA’s archaic rules and regulations firsthand. For all the NCAA talk about how they are trying to prepare “student-athletes” for life when the games end, it’s obvious that the NCAA is concerned mostly about the NCAA.

The NIL changes should have started to be implemented many years ago. The ridiculous decisions that the governing body has made to keep the status quo are borderline immoral.

What harm is there for a “student-athlete” to get a couple of hundred bucks to put a picture on their Facebook page of them eating a slice from a local pizzeria?  Why should it be any issue to the NCAA if a “student-athlete” profits in any way due to their status as a football player?  Aren’t they the ones that earned that status?  There wouldn’t be any issue if a regular student did this, so what’s the problem?

Why should the fat cats at the NCAA offices in Indianapolis make six (or seven!) figure salaries while the teenagers are the ones breaking their backs?

I know the counter-arguments.  I know the “student-athletes” are getting tuition and room and board.  In recent years they’ve received more compensation in terms of food too.  But when compared to the amount of money that specifically football and sometimes men’s basketball brings in for a University and the overall local economy, it’s a minuscule number.

A little over a decade ago, former UCLA basketball standout Ed O’Bannon was at a friend’s house. The friend was playing an NCAA basketball game. He was playing with the 1995 UCLA Bruins. On the screen was a player with O’Bannon’s number, skin tone, and even the same lefty jump shot.  When O’Bannon approached the NCAA asking why his likeness was on a video game when he never gave permission for that to happen, he was told by the NCAA that the player in the game wasn’t him.  He was also told even if it was him, they basically didn’t care.

O’Bannon sued the NCAA, which eventually brought us to the point we are at today. Public opinion began to change during that lawsuit, and then state and federal government entities got involved. When you look back at it that way, last week’s NCAA decision was inevitable.

Here’s the thing.  Cheating in sports has been going on as long as games have been played. And cheating will still occur when the new NIL rules go into effect. But isn’t it a good thing that the teenagers that worked hard to get to this point in their lives will finally get compensated for their skills and work ethic?

I think it is.


Mark Nagi is the author of “Decade of Dysfunction,” which takes an up-close look at Tennessee’s crazy coaching search back in 2017. The book is available on Amazon.