Even though college sports have been put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, the business of college sports has not. While business hasn’t moved as quickly as it had before the pandemic sent everyone home, it has moved forward, including in terms of name, image and likeness rights for college athletes.

West Virginia University Athletic Director Shane Lyons said last week that, to his knowledge, the plan remained for the NIL working group offer its findings to the NCAA by the end of this month. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the working group remained on schedule.

“We certainly expect to make our report by the end of April to the Board of Governors,” Bowlsby said in a recent teleconference. “We’re going to have to do it by telephonic meetings over the coming weeks, and they tend not to be as productive, as fruitful, as in-person meetings, but we’re going to have to do what we have to do.

“Likewise, the Board of Governors meeting, it’s going to be held, as far as we know, but it will be done as a teleconference,” he added. “And so, you know, that’s all moving down the path.”

One group, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, has offered its recommendations to the NCAA. The commission on Monday released the recommendations it had sent to the NCAA the week before. Those recommendations break down into five principles:

  • The first is that rules for name, image and likeness must be fair for all student-athletes, that they don’t create pay-for-play arrangements, and that student-athletes must use approved and licensed third parties to arrange those compensation opportunities.
  • The next is that institutions must educate all student-athletes about their NIL rights and related issues.
  • Third, management and application of the rules must be overseen by a board made up mostly of independent directors not employed by the NCAA or member universities, and that current and former student-athletes should make up a third of the board.
  • Fourth, rules must be put in place “to avoid pay for play, impermissible benefits, and improper recruiting or retention arrangements.” Conferences and schools must be barred from arranging compensation, arrangements must be consistent with fair market value and conferences and schools can’t allow commercial use of their trademarks and logos in association with college athletes, other than allowing the athletes to identify themselves as team members or students of their schools.
  • Finally, the rules must be uniform and enforceable across all states.

Bowlsby said he understands that the landscape of college athletics will change once these new rules are put into place, but how those rules shake out remains to be seen, especially considering the health and financial issues the schools and conferences are dealing with during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think change is coming, and it should,” Bowlsby said. “It’s time for us to take a fresh look at this, and how far we’ll go remains to be seen, but there are an awful lot of people that still have their oars in the water and I expect that they will unless we get something between now and the reporting time that would tell us that continued consideration is contraindicated.

“It does sort of make it seem like NIL isn’t quite as vitally important as it once was,” he added, “when you compare it to the life-and-death situations that many Americans are dealing with.”