How much are college athletes’ names, images worth?
How much are a college athlete’s name, image and likeness worth? And who would want to pay for them?
The questions are front and center now that the NCAA, pressured by individual states that have started acting on their own, has taken a major step toward allowing athletes to make money off their fame.
Deciding to reverse the prohibition on earning money was the easy part; determining how much athletes can make, under what circumstances and in a way that doesn’t permit abuses are bigger challenges that won’t be as simple to resolve.
Whatever they come up with, opportunities to earn huge sums of money could very well be the exception, not the rule, according to those who observe and work in the markets.
The board of governors for the nation’s largest governing body met Tuesday and set a January 2021 deadline to have rules and regulations finalized across three divisions covering more than 1,100 schools and 460,000 athletes.
Lawmakers in California and other states would like to lift all restrictions, letting the free market decide. But NCAA leaders, concerned about possible corruption and the use of endorsement deals to lure top recruits, are likely to take a far more cautious approach.
“It’s really hard to play the speculation game as to what an athlete would be worth in the world the NCAA is envisioning because as best I can tell, their announcement essentially said that they will treat athletes like other students — except when they won’t,” said Andy Schwarz, an economist who helped craft the California bill signed into law last month that helped push the NCAA toward rewriting its regulations.
There are some who believe there is a potential to unlock real riches — if the athletes can somehow get organized.
Earlier this week, the NFL Players’ Association announced a partnership with the National College Players Association, an advocacy group with no power to formally organize athletes as a union. The goal, according to NCPA executive director Ramogi Huma, is for the NFLPA’s licensing company to pursue opportunities for large numbers of players.
At the top of the wish list: getting players a piece of the billions being paid by television networks to the NCAA and conferences for the rights to televise games.
That might seem far-fetched, but when the NCAA was sued in 2014 by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that name, image and likeness rights extended to television broadcasts.
“There’s no difference in name, image and likeness rights, whether they are for individual endorsements of the product or appearance in a broadcast,” said Michael Hausfeld, the lead attorney in the O’Bannon case. (AP)