The landscape of college sports will forever change July 1 when legislation from seven states goes into effect which will allow student-athletes to monetize the use of their name, image and likeness without impacting their college eligibility.
It's a step into the unknown for the NCAA after more than a century running an organization steadfastly committed to an amateur model that resisted the call for enhanced benefits for the players beyond the cost of attendance at their respective universities.
The result could be a windfall for students that were restricted from earning money despite their popularity (think Zion Williamson). Those with significant social media followings are positioned to cash in on endorsements. Even those without major followings will be able to take advantage of commercial opportunities near their campuses.
How much money will be generated is uncertain, but navigating the new world will create significant challenges. In the arena will be several important figures that will play a role in shaping this new path. A look at seven of them:
Mark Emmert, NCAA president
With the NCAA unable to build consensus on crafting its own legislation to handle NIL and Congress not moving forward on a federal bill that would create uniform guidelines before July 1, there's going to have to be some accommodations made for athletes financially benefiting from their name, image and likeness in the seven states that passed laws.
It's expected there will be some form of bridge legislation by the NCAA to handle the temporary situation so that athletes don't lose eligibility as the governing body works toward getting passage of federal law. That temporary fix could come in late June.
As the leader of the NCAA, Emmert is being asked to guide the organization through this uncertainty. His biggest challenge will be finding a way to get federal legislation in a timely manner that guarantees some certainty for the organization. Having seven states with different laws on the books dealing with NIL is hard enough. More will be coming online soon. Having a uniform set of rules is critical if the NCAA is going to provide oversight into a complex arena that is sure to be ever-changing.
MORE: 10 questions explore how name, image and likeness will change college sports
MORE: State-by-state look at NIL laws that go into effect July 1
Maria Cantwell, Senator (D-Wash.)
If there is going to be a uniform NIL legislation passed at the federal level then Cantwell, the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the matter, will be one of the key drivers of the legislation. In a divided Senate, passing any legislation is going to be difficult. However, what is different about the NIL issue is that members of both parties actually agree on the need for reform. But like most things, the devil is in the details. One interesting part of Cantwell's role as chair is that she was a senator when Emmert served as president of the University of Washington.
As the chair, she will have significant influence on potential legislation that needs 60 votes to pass the filibuster. Also on the committee is Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who has authored a bill in hopes of bringing Republicans and Democrats to a compromise. While addressing the need for athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness, it also would give the NCAA the legal protection it is seeking from antitrust lawsuits that challenge its athlete-compensation rules.
There's several other bills being proposed in this area that will see Cantwell tasked with finding a solution that can be signed into law by President Biden.
Paige Bueckers, Connecticut women's basketball
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