NCAA Forms Working Group to Examine Name, Image and Likeness - Higher Education
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NCAA Forms Working Group to Examine Name, Image and Likeness

by Lois Elfman

The decision by NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors to appoint a working group to examine issues related to student-athlete name, image and likeness drew a sharp reaction from academicians.

“Where have they been for the last 10 years when this was constantly talked about in the media?” said Dr. Gerald Gurney, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

The working group will be chaired by Big East Conference commissioner Val Ackerman and Ohio State University athletic director Gene Smith. Members will include representatives of conferences and institutions (athletic directors, administration and students). Divisions I, II and III will be included. They will examine the NCAA’s position on name, image and likeness benefits and potentially propose rule modifications.

Mark Emmert

NCAA President Mark Emmert

“They should have done this many years ago, but it’s about the money,” said Gurney. “Athletic programs and the NCAA in particular do not want to split this with the athletes. It has been absolutely unconscionable over the years.”

According to the NCAA, this working group will not consider anything that could be construed as payment for participation in college sports. Rather, it will look at current rules, policies and practices in terms of potentially allowing student-athletes to receive compensation for use of their names, images and likenesses, which is presently prohibited.

The Drake Group, an entity formed in 1999 with the mission of defending academic integrity in college sports, has advocated for this for years. Gurney, past president of The Drake Group, said as long as the athlete does not use the image of the institution, then the athlete should be absolutely free to market himself or herself, such as appearing in commercials and hosting sports camps.

Dr. Simon Pack, assistant professor in the Division of Sport Management at St. John’s University said that the details, in terms of precisely how student-athletes can market their name, image and likeness must be determined.

“They picked the right people to discuss this in the most thorough way possible. What it means, boots on the ground in terms of practical results, it’s hard to say,” said Pack. “Pulling the trigger on something that is going to have dramatic sweeping change is difficult. That holds true for any organization that is so closely under the microscope in the public eye.”

He said that young people today are often interested in building their personal brands.

“They get to show a different set of talents,” Pack said. “They can show if they are a good spokesperson for a product or a good podcast host, anything that would give them an opportunity to make money in a different way.”

Dr. Tomika L. Ferguson, assistant professor and co-coordinator  of the Ed.D. Program in Higher Education Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education, said she is focused on issues relating to equity and equality. While she is excited about the working group looking at name, image and likeness, she said that it’s important how their findings are interpreted and implemented.

Dr. Tomika Ferguson

“One of the things that this commission needs to focus on is regulation,” said Ferguson, a former student-athlete and founder of the Black Athlete Sister Circle program for Black women student-athletes at Division I institutions. “If you are to move forward with athletes being compensated, how are we going to regulate that? Are there going to be vendors that are going to be approved by the NCAA? Are there going to be rules of compensation, minimums? Are there going to be models and frameworks? Provide opportunities to benefit the student-athletes, but at the same time still protect amateurism and the athletes as well.”

Compensating student-athletes for non-athletic participation that has no tie to their college or university would involve creating industry regulations. Ferguson said that she is waiting to see what kinds of rules and regulations will be formulated, such as putting a limit on how many opportunities one person can pursue.

“I come back to the equity issue,” she said. “Is the NCAA promoting solely the Power Five schools or are they promoting all of the institutions and all of the athletes who could participate in this? Regulation around protecting the amateurism, protecting the student-athletes and also protecting the integrity of college sport is something I hope will come from it.”

Ferguson said it needs to be established whether there will be a trust or direct compensation. Also, she hopes the NCAA offers support to student-athletes in developing their entrepreneurial efforts promoting their individual brands.

Dr. Fritz G. Polite, the assistant dean of student affairs at Shenandoah University’s Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business, said he’s disappointed there are is only one current faculty person in the working group.

“The NCAA is hiding behind the curtain of academics when really they have nothing to do with academics whatsoever. It’s about big-time business and entertainment,” said Polite, the current president of The Drake Group.

“At The Drake Group we want to make sure that the focus does not shift so much to this commercialization part of it and not even talk about the academic piece,” he added. “We feel that the faculty should be more involved with these discussions.”

Polite said that current NCAA regulations run contrary a free market capitalist system.

“The court cases are going to make [the NCAA] do it anyway, so they’re just trying to get ahead of the courts,” said Polite.

The final report from the working group is due in October.

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