NIL at a glance: What student-athletes can and can’t do under the NCAA’s interim policy

Gold and Blue Nation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Today, it’s official: the NCAA’s interim policy on name, image and likeness is now in effect, meaning student-athletes across the nation can earn compensation for their NIL while still maintaining their eligibility. 

Because no state laws regarding NIL currently exist in West Virginia, WVU will follow this interim policy, and may make some institutional adjustments to it accordingly. 

Let’s break down some of the most common rules of engagement under the NCAA’s new policy, with information taken directly from association literature. 

So, what can student-athletes do? 

The NCAA’s interim policy opens the door for athletes to participate in a wide variety of “NIL activities.” That can include everything from major brand endorsements to partnerships with small business to paid appearances and autograph sessions — all things that were previously prohibited under the association’s amateurism rules. 

Athletes are also allowed to seek professional services related to NIL. They can now hire agents, accountants, marketing consultants, lawyers and brand managers. 

What they can’t do is accept money related to athletic performance. The NCAA still prohibits pay-for-play, meaning athletes can’t be paid to compete for a specific school, receive performance-based incentives or any similar type of payment. The NCAA acknowledges that performance “may enhance a student-athlete’s NIL value,” but it cannot be the “consideration” for NIL compensation. 

According to the NCAA, any athlete who engages in pay-for-play will forfeit his or her eligibility. 

What about recruits? Can they benefit from NIL, too?

The NCAA says yes: prospective student-athletes may engage in the same types of NIL activities as current college athletes under this interim policy. However, NIL can’t be used to persuade recruits, and it cannot be used as means of providing pay-for-play. 

Can athletes partner with boosters for NIL agreements? 

The NCAA also says this is acceptable, so long as those partnerships adhere to state or institutional laws. NIL agreements with boosters do not constitute pay-for-play. 

Do athletes have to report their NIL activities to their school? 

The NCAA doesn’t define a rule on this, and is leaving it up to schools to impose reporting requirements. This is one area where WVU’s NIL policy may differ slightly than policies at other institutions. 

According to director of athletics Shane Lyons, Mountaineers who want to participate in NIL activities must receive approval from the athletic department. 

Laws in some states may also require athletes to report NIL partnerships to their schools. 

Will the NCAA police NIL? And what happens when an athlete breaks the rules? 

Now that the interim NIL policy is in place, it appears that the NCAA is taking a hands-off approach. In fact, its national office will not monitor for violations of state NIL laws or institutional policies on the subject.  

The association will, however, monitor for violations of the amateurism rules that remain in effect, namely pay-for-play. 

So it’s up to schools to police their own student-athletes? 

In a sense, yes, but every school will be different, and that could make the early days of this new era quite complex. As noted above, WVU will mandate that athletes report all NIL partnerships, but that may not be the case at all schools. 

The NCAA demands that all schools continue to monitor for possible violations of pay-for-play and other amateurism rules that still exist. In that sense, it’s up to schools to make sure athletes are not participating in partnerships that could jeopardize their eligibility. 

It’s also possible that schools will intervene to determine “the appropriateness of the NIL activity.” Lyons indicated that Mountaineer athletes cannot participate in partnerships involving gambling, alcohol or adult entertainment, among other things. 

If it’s an ‘interim’ policy on NIL, when will the NCAA implement more permanent rules? 

The timing of that is unclear at this point, but it will happen eventually in one of two ways. Either the NCAA will update its policy in the future, or the policy will change when federal NIL legislation is passed — likely the association’s desired outcome. 

For now, the rules of the game are defined, and they give athletes a potential earning power that they’ve never before enjoyed. 

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