(CN) – National Collegiate Athletic Association officials shook the foundations of U.S. college sports Tuesday when they voted to begin dismantling rules that bar student athletes from earning money on endorsement deals.
For years, athletes and elected officials sought to revamp the current NCAA paradigm, which they said brings physical and financial risks for student athletes while giving colleges and universities unfair advantages in business deals.
Current and former student athletes have said the model unfairly restricts them from the financial benefits of business deals that use their name, image and likeness.
The NCAA Board of Governors acknowledged input from multiple interested parties when they voted unanimously to direct the three NCAA divisions to begin revamping policies governing student endorsement contracts.
Board chair Michael V. Drake said in a statement the new policies will bring colleges in line with “21st century” modernization.
“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” said Drake, who is also president of Ohio State University. “This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert said in the statement that new rules should make clear the distinction between student athletes and employees of colleges and universities.
“The board’s action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals,” Emmert said.
Under revamped recruitment rules, any inducements by schools to keep or transfer a student athlete will be prohibited.
Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill allowing college athletes to hire agents and make money from endorsement deals.
The first-in-the-nation bill – dubbed the Fair Play to Pay Act – challenged NCAA regulations that restrict endorsement deals for student athletes.
Newsom signed the bill during an episode of UNINTERRUPTED’s The Shop, flanked by professional basketball star LeBron James and other athletes who supported the measure.
The NCAA earns an average of $1 billion annually from student athletics while colleges and universities take in around $14 billion per year, according to Newsom’s office.
“This is a step in the right direction, and the NCAA deserves credit for finally affirming what has been common sense to so many for so long,” Newsom said in a statement. “California will be closely watching as the NCAA’s process moves forward to ensure the rules ultimately adopted are aligned with the legislation we passed this year.”
The NCAA said in the statement it will spend the next six months taking input from interested parties to formulate new policies. Each division will have until January 2021 to put the policies in place.
In a statement, New Jersey Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker applauded the NCAA move but said it falls short of abolishing exploitation of student athletes.
“This is a long overdue and positive step forward, but it falls far short of what is needed to fully address the exploitation of college athletes,” said Booker. “We need sweeping action to bring justice for college athletes, by making sure that access to a quality education, health care, and economic security are central to college sports – not big profits.”
Booker, a former college athlete, has said he would sign federal legislation requiring national sport associations to compensate all athletes fairly if he’s elected president.