Triad expert weighs in on college athletes benefiting from name, image and likeness

Buckley Report

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — College sports will never be the same. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I think the players have been exploited. And this is a really complicated issue because you have some sports at some universities that make a tremendous amount of money and then you have others that lose money,” said Andy Haile, an associate professor at Elon Law School, and a college athlete himself, who played soccer at Davidson.

The walls that kept college athletes from benefitting from the billions their work produced began to crumble when former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA on behalf of all Division I basketball and football players for using those players’ names, images and likenesses for commercial purposes. So, for example, the NCAA made big money not just off the television rights for football and basketball but when a store sold an O’Bannon jersey or put some athlete’s picture on the cover of a video game, that player didn’t see any of that money.

Soon after, Northwestern’s football team tried to unionize and both Congress and some state legislatures began hearings on possible legislation to force the NCAA to share their revenue with athletes. Much of that is still working its way through the various systems but the NCAA saw the writing on the wall and, on June 30, 2021, announced that all players could utilize their names, images and likenesses to earn money. They won’t be paid by the schools out of athletic revenue, but they can now do things like promote a local restaurant through their social media or do a commercial for a local car dealer.

“Obviously, the NCAA has provided scholarships for a long time, so there’s a quid-pro-quo,” said Haile, about how the NCAA justified not paying athletes. “And that has expanded over time. Back in 2015 with the O’Bannon case, one of the results of that was students were allowed to receive more in scholarship funding, up to what’s called, ‘the cost of attendance.’”

So, schools could provide things like a computer to a student-athlete, or travel to study abroad.

“Now, with the decision on June 30 where the NCAA board of directors is going to allow students to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness, it’s a further eroding of that idea of amateurism,” Haile said.

But he believes that’s a good thing because, he argues, they’ve earned it. But he understands that not everyone agrees.

“One of the concerns is, if UNC is allowed to pay its players, will there develop a competitive imbalance,” Haile said. “Some people say there already is, right? That you have the Power Five conferences and you have everybody else but it would become more stark if you have the haves and the have-nots paying their athletes.”

This all, though, was likely inevitable. What no one knows, though, is where it will lead.

“I can see two paths for this,” Haile said. “One is a total free market where athletes are just paid and they’re paid by the third-parties who are seeking those endorsements from the athletes and they are paid by their universities. Or, if the universities really reconsider why do we have athletics and what is the connection between athletics and the individual development of the student, then I think the NCAA may diminish in importance and the schools may refocus on the purpose of academics and individual development and college athletics may become truly amateur like Division III is now. There is a lot of money at stake that would prevent that from occurring but maybe this is the sort of seismic change that will force the drastic reconsideration of our priorities.”

See more on what this all means – and which athletes are likely to benefit the most – in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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