What name, image and likeness really means for student-athletes after college

In late October 2019, the NCAA board of governors voted unanimously to approve Student-Athletes to receive compensation for their respective name, image and likeness. As a former Student-Athlete and as the founder of a company whose mission is to help Student-Athletes as they enter the professional world, this is exciting! Finally, Student-Athletes will be able to receive compensation for the value that they bring to their institution. 

Although this is incredibly exciting, it is also incredibly fresh. When looking at the California law as it stands today, University of Michigan Sport Management professor Rodney Fort states, “Thinking about anybody who is an athlete in college sports who might be wondering about making some money off of the name, image and likeness rights law in California, the first thing to point out is that it’s gonna be three years before the law would even take effect, which makes us have to speculate about whats gonna happen with this law.” If we have to speculate, as of now, it looks as if students would be able to pursue opportunities to generate revenue through sponsorships, ad campaigns, and capitalize on ways their names are used to generate revenue within the athletic department. How that is divided between players and how much revenue that will create is still undetermined. Until 2021, or 2023 for the California law, we have no way of knowing the full extent of the policy and how it will be used for Student-Athletes to generate revenue.

Looking more at the California law specifically, there are still many uncertainties and restrictions that need to be worked through. Fort points out that “the (California) law is restricted in various ways about what can and can’t be done in name, image and likeness rights for players.” Looking to the future, it is hard to say how influential or different the Student-Athlete experience will be. It is important to know that this change in NCAA sports is not one that will likely create a huge difference in the NCAA or the Student-Athlete experience. When asked about how the name, image and likeness ruling will change NCAA sports, Fort says that we probably “won’t even notice” adding that “what you’ll notice is, like right now this part of the football season is interesting because teams are getting bowl eligible and that’s valuable, so what your noticing is coaches getting bonuses for prices like 15 to 20 grand for getting the 6th win, that will probably end up going to the kids.” These opportunities are exciting for a Student-Athlete and definitely a great reward for the work they put in, but at the end of the day it’s no sum of money (after being split through the team) that will create a drastic change for any individual.

Depending on which direction the name, image and likeness rule change goes, players may see a nice sum of money for their contribution to the program. Whether that is through an NCAA rule change or through state legislation is yet to be seen. However, the important thing to note here is that this ruling will not change the fact that you should have a plan for post graduation. The ability to capitalize on your name, image and likeness is something to look forward to for Student-Athletes down the line. But for now, it is important to keep your eyes set on a post graduation career.

Rodney Fort is a professor in Sport Management at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology. Previously he worked in the economics department for Washington State University. For more information, visit https://www.kines.umich.edu/directory/rodney-fort