Hours before a large group of former college football players became paid professionals via the 2020 NFL Draft, Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press reported that Division I college athletes may soon be able to earn money for their on-the-field achievements.
Thursday afternoon, Russo wrote that the NCAA was exploring rule changes that would allow student-athletes to make cash from their names, likeness and images through sponsorship and endorsement deals. It would be a groundbreaking shift for an association that has long remained firm regarding the ideal that collegiate stars were amateurs, no matter how much revenue they generated for universities.
The recommendation could become NCAA law in January 2021, according to the report.
As Russo explained, athletes would be able to sell memorabilia and autographs, and also earn revenue for public appearances. In September 2019, California passed a law making it illegal for the NCAA and universities to prohibit college athletes from earning money through endorsements and other similar avenues. That law doesn't take effect until 2023.
It's likely no coincidence this news broke with all of collegiate and North-American professional sports on indefinite hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. The start date for the college football season remains in jeopardy, with campuses around the country shut down, and ESPN's Chris Fowler speculated earlier this month that the country's most popular competition — Division I college football — may not get underway until February 2021.
The idea of unpaid young men being asked to potentially put themselves at risk to entertain fans makes for a bad look for the NCAA and the schools. That situation could change as quickly as the first month of the new year.