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MWCConnection Roundtable: Thoughts on Impending Image/Likeness Rule Changes

The team weighs in.

Another Friday, another edition of the Roundtable. This week takes a look at an impending NCAA ruling and one that has been a long time coming. The college governing body is expected to allow college athletes to benefit from their image and likeness moving forward. There is still some unknown on how exactly they will benefit.

This week’s question is two-fold: Do you agree or disagree with the ruling? And what are some of your thoughts as to examples of how students can benefit from their image or likeness?


I wholeheartedly agree with the NCAA’s decision which does not occur very often. This ruling has been much needed for years and I am excited about the benefits it will bring to the players. One of the biggest things that may come out of this is, of course, NCAA Football which was created by EA Sports back in 2001. The last installment in the franchise was NCAA Football 14, which was released on July 9th, 2013. The series was put on hiatus due to major conferences pulling their trademark after lawsuits involving player likenesses in games. With player likeness coming back, it is far more likely we will see this esteemed franchise make a comeback after a couple of years of working out the logistics and finances. Players will have to be paid in order for EA to use their names and images inside of their video games.

Outside of the video game realm, athletes can now create their very own articles of clothing to be sold, receive revenue from their youtube and other social media outlets, and a plethora of other opportunities that can garner them monetary gain. College students will also be allowed to sign with shoe companies before joining the NFL ranks as well as being cast for commercials and whatnot. For the fans, we may now see names on more college’s jerseys which will make it much easier to identify your favorite players on the field.

Now not every player will benefit from this, in fact it will be a very small percentage of all college athletes in the country, but it is still a huge step in the right direction. We may not see the full effects of the ruling for at least another year or so, but I expect the benefits will far outweigh the negative.


The NCAA is on the verge of reversing its antiquated policy of prohibiting student-athletes from making money off their own likeness. This has sparked a debate between the old-school purists who preach the virtues of “amateurism” and the folks who prefer a system that doesn’t unreasonably treat student-athletes differently from all the other students on campus. In a landscape where college football coaches are set for life after signing their first FBS contract, and college football programs across the nation are spending millions upon millions of dollars building virtual gridiron theme parks, it’s almost comical that allowing players to make some cash off of their talent is even a question.

Although it has been inevitable for years that changes would have to be made, the NCAA had been unwilling to budge on this seemingly common-sense idea. However, after intense public outcry, several lawsuits, and a handful of states enacting legislation to force its hand, the organization with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion has been beaten into submission. We now enter a world where college athletes get to try their hand at business, advertising, and maybe most intriguing, content creation.

There will obviously be some big winners coming out of this rule change. Shoe companies will be writing checks much earlier in the process, corny Billy-Bob’s Car Lot commercials will prominently feature college quarterbacks from Texas to the panhandle of Florida, and all of the secret bags of cash getting shuffled around today will be out in the open in all kinds of ridiculous business ventures. That is fun and all, but the thing that fans will get the most benefit from is merchandise and content.

How many fans would buy creative t-shirts (or knitted beanies) designed by their favorite players? How many views or listens would a weekly podcast or YouTube video from a quarterback and his wide receivers get? Players could create an infinite number of products that would enhance the fan experience. Some will fail miserably (and hilariously), but others will make college sports more approachable and fun. Heck, we might even get Dabo Swinney to quit over this, truly a win for everyone.


I wish I could say neither, but I am okay with it. However, we have to realize that this will create a TItle IX nightmare. If there is one thing I learned in graduate school, it is that the NCAA takes Title IX very seriously. Male and female opportunities will not be equal. I think that there needs to be some rule and regulations. Players should be allowed to work camps and get paid for it. Maybe we start to see names on the back of jerseys and most importantly the return of the NCAA Football video game.

I have no problem with people making money off of their own name, but we can’t kid ourselves and pretend that all athletes will benefit from this. It will be a very small percentage of the population (elite football players and a few basketball players). There will be a few rare exceptions like Ali Ostrander at Boise State, but it will likely impact a miniscule percentage of NCAA athletes. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. With that being said, I am really indifferent on this topic.


I suppose that I’m okay with this. I don’t think that it will come into effect for over 99% of college student-athletes. That said, those that can benefit from 3rd party endorsements should be able to do so. The university should not be able to sell tickets and programs with the photo of their best player(s) while those same players can’t make any money of their own from a 3rd party endorsement (like a local sporting goods store).

The hope for a resurrection of a NCAA Football game takes a hit from this same ruling though. Players are still barred from entering a group licensing deal. This means the NCAA can’t pay a lump sum to be allocated to all FBS football players. The ruling requires that every player be negotiated with to obtain access to their likeness. That makes it very hard to bring back a game that would have 130 FBS football teams with 85 player rosters (11,050 players to reach an agreement with). Also, this reinforces that likely only the star players get any benefit from this ruling.

My only other real concern is that this ruling probably makes it just a bit harder for the Group of 5 in recruiting. In the Mountain West, we might see the best players get some endorsements from local businesses. Doubt you’ll see much beyond that, except possibly in cases like Jordan Love (where a player is on the national radar as a top NFL prospect at a marquee position). The Power 5 schools that are on national TV the most can probably get some of their star players some national endorsements. For instance, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, CeeDee Lamb & Chase Young probably would have had local & national endorsements if they were able to utilize this ruling last season. How do you convince a good prospect to pick a Group of 5 versus a Power 5 now when they can now make more money at the Power 5? It’s not just the supposed ‘prestige’ of being in the Power 5, but now you’ll also probably make some more money there if you become a top player. Go back to the Jordan Love example. Do you think that he (1st round pick) would have made more money in endorsements than Jake Fromm from Georgia (5th round pick) last season? I don’t.


This rule has been a long time coming with the way schools use students and benefit off of them, not to mention the pools of money in this game, it’s the right move.

Side note: I’ve never understood why college athletes couldn’t collect some kind of stipend while playing and if the NCAA was that concerned about amateur status, delay it until they graduate or otherwise leave school.

Anyway, bring back NCAA Football first and foremost! The fans like it, the players like it, and for most, it’s the most time they will have in the spotlight. Let us have actual players names too. Although I’ll always have a soft spot for Kingsley Bell, J.T. McQueen, and Champ Medlock. Have NCAA Basketball as well, with men’s and women’s player modes. Maybe an NCAA Olympic Sports game too. While the latter may not sell well (maybe it can be an add-on feature for another game), pool the money from all games and allow every college athlete to benefit from them. That may bring some equality to this.

Shoe deals seems like the biggest thing that will take place and that makes sense to me. A lot of people are saying marquee players will benefit the most and there’s no denying that. But Jake Fromm and State Farm is a match made in heaven no matter what position he played. Also, I wonder if some companies will get position units in ads or deals. I could see OL and DL players in a Cici’s or Old Country Buffet commercial. I don’t know. I’m also okay with taking things year to year, as it’s going to be an experiment, and people more creative than me can get solutions. But video games and shoe contracts seem to be the easiest.