NCAA begins process to allow college athletes to be compensated
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The NCAA's top governing body on Tuesday unanimously voted to start a process that would allow student-athletes to "benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model," a decision that could have significant implications for the future of college sports.

Michael Drake, chairman of the NCAA Board of Governors and president of The Ohio State University, said that each NCAA athletic division should "immediately" consider updates to their policies in light of the vote.

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A news release, however, included no specifics on how the NCAA would work with member institutions to structure the policy, or how the rules would stay consistent with the current NCAA model. The NCAA currently prohibits students from profiting from athletics, and has argued that reforms in that area would damage amateur athletics. 

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” Drake said in a statement. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. 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.”

The NCAA declined to provide further comment on the announcement when contacted by The Hill. 

The move comes as both state and federal lawmakers express more openness to the prospect of collegiate athletes receiving compensation.

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomCalifornia governor sets special election to replace Katie Hill California regulators open investigation into power outages means to prevent wildfires Hillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches MORE (D) last month signed a bill that would make it easier for student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. That legislation is slated to go into effect in 2023. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisWhen it comes to health care reform, look to the states, not the federal government  Saagar Enjeti: Republicans lost Kentucky by failing to appeal to working class Saagar Enjeti: Republicans lost Kentucky by screwing the working class MORE (R) has also thrown support behind a bipartisan bill that would allow college athletes in his state to profit from their name, image and likeness while they are students. DeSantis, a former baseball player who attended Yale University, last week predicted that similar laws in Florida and California would cause the NCAA “to reevaluate" its policies. 

The NCAA board said in its decision that "modernization" of policies should occur with regards to a list of guidelines, including assurances that student-athletes are "treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate."

The guidelines also noted that universities must make clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible. They also stated that schools needed to "reaffirm that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university."

ESPN college basketball commentator Jay Bilas, an outspoken advocate for student-athlete compensation, voiced skepticism about the announcement. 

"From the NCAA Board of Governors (what it’s REALLY saying)," Bilas said on Twitter. "We shall strive to allow athletes the right to name image and likeness opportunities, but only in a manner that does not allow them to monetize their name image and likeness opportunities."

The National College Players Association, a nonprofit advocacy group, also urged people to dismiss headlines about the news, saying that the "vote authorizes "benefits" instead of compensation.

"It’s said in the spring such benefits must be 'tethered to education' (not cash). Another NCAA stall tactic & failure to lead," the group tweeted.

NCAA President Mark Emmert, who has repeatedly pushed back against efforts to allow student-athletes to earn compensation, said in a statement that the recent decision "creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”

After Newsom signed legislation opening the door for student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness in California, Emmert said that it was "just a new form of professionalism and a different way of converting students into employees."

The NCAA has also warned that college athletes in California may be deemed ineligible for NCAA-sanctioned events. 

But the movement toward allowing college athletes to earn compensation has gained steam in many other states, including Washington and Colorado.

Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerNorth Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps Intercollegiate athletics just got a two-minute warning North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats MORE (R-N.C.) has also introduced federal legislation that would amend the definition of a qualified amateur sports organization in the tax code. The bill would specifically erase the restriction barring student-athletes from being compensated for use of their name, image and likeness. 

“We clearly have the NCAA’s attention. Now, we need to have their action," Walker said in a statement following the vote. "While their words are promising, they have used words in the past to deny equity and basic constitutional rights for student-athletes. The NCAA is on the clock, and while they are, we’re going to keep working towards the passage of the Student-Athlete Equity Act to make sure their words are forced into action.”

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy North Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps Saagar Enjeti claims Pelosi's impeachment strategy could hurt 2020 Democrats MORE (R-N.C.) has declared that such reforms should lead to scholarships being treated like income.

In wake of the NCAA’s announcement, the senator said on Twitter that he would introduce legislation “that subjects scholarships given to athletes who choose to ‘cash in’ to income taxes.”

This developing report was last updated at 6:25 p.m.