College Sports

NCAA to consider letting athletes profit off name and image. NC rep wants ‘action.’

The NCAA will consider changes to its long-held position of not allowing student-athletes to earn money off their name, image and likeness, though the organization that governs much of college athletics said it will not consider paying students as employees.

The NCAA’s creation of a working group to examine the issues comes two months after Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican, introduced federal legislation that would stop the NCAA from prohibiting athletes from profiting off their name, image and likeness. Similar bills were introduced in Washington state and California.

Walker’s bill would not require the NCAA or its member schools to compensate athletes.

“We feel some satisfaction that we have created enough disturbance for them to take a look at this. But we’ve seen these meetings before. They’ve not produced a whole lot of results,” Walker said Tuesday afternoon. “We want to see what comes out of this that’s more tangible, more action items than lip service.”

The 19-member working group “will examine the NCAA’s position on name, image and likeness benefits and potentially propose rule modifications tethered to education,” Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair, said in a statement released by the NCAA.

“We believe the time is right for these discussions and look forward to a thorough assessment of the many complexities involved in this area.”

The discussion is likely to focus on what constitutes “tethered to education.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert said at the men’s basketball Final Four in early April that there would be more discussion about name, image and likeness.

“There needs to be a lot of conversation about how — if it was possible, how it would be practicable? Is there any way to make that work and still allow fair competitive relationships among schools? And nobody’s been able to come up with a resolution yet around that,” Emmert said.

The group includes the commissioners of the Big 12 and the Big East, the president of the University of Georgia and athletic directors from the University of Virginia, the University of Colorado and Ohio State University.

“The group’s work will not result in paying students as employees,” said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith. “That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.”

Walker, who has been working on the issue for several years, said in March that the NCAA had time to act. He had discussions with the NCAA before and after introducing the Student-Athlete Equity Act. Louisiana Democrat Cedric Richmond, the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is the bill’s co-sponsor.

It has not had a committee hearing, but Walker is trying to get one scheduled. He said it remains important to “right this wrong.”

“We’re not slowing down our work. We’re happy to work parallel,” Walker said. “It’s not going to change our energy and what we’ve invested to see this become law. Even if the NCAA does begin to make some changes, we need to set up the parameters and guidelines legally.”

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Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or