Easily one of the most polarizing topics in the past few decades, athlete compensation has entered a new era in college sports.
After many years of debates, procrastination and more, the NCAA introduced name, image and likeness—commonly referred to as NIL—rights in the summer of 2021. Though half-hearted at best, the interim rules allowed players to receive compensation from endorsements. On paper, recruiting inducements and a pay-for-play or performance-based structure were still prohibited.
But it hasn’t been that simple.
The result of this much-needed change has been chaos, which was predictable given the absence of regulations and oversight.
While our offseason series is specific to college football, the NIL conversation is a challenge for college sports as a whole.
Since the primary NIL obstacles have a similar fix, the format of this discussion is different than previous editions that looked at the transfer portal and College Football Playoff.
What Was the Intent?
In short: Athletes can make money because of NIL rights.
For decades, the NCAA slow-played this discussion and—with moderate success—convinced a vocal crowd that a cost-of-attendance scholarship was adequate compensation. The governing body resisted any broad changes until the United States Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA in the Shawne Alston case.
About 10 days later, the NCAA unveiled interim rules that effectively said athletes can engage in NIL activities that comply with state laws. The NCAA noted its intent to “continue to work with Congress to adopt federal legislation to support student-athletes.”
Proponents of NIL rights—myself included—expressed great relief. Finally, if a local company wanted to pay an athlete to endorse its brand and be compensated, it could happen.
That, admittedly, was the surface-level improvement.