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What does the NCAA's announcement mean for UNC athletics going forward?

The NCAA announced Tuesday it will allow athletes to profit off their name and likeness.

Roy Williams Kenny Williams Auburn NCAA

Head Coach Roy Williams kisses senior guard Kenny Williams (24) on the forehead at the end of UNC's 97-80 loss against Auburn in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 29, 2019 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, M.O.

On Tuesday afternoon, the NCAA Board of Governors voted unanimously to clear the way for athletes to “benefit from their name, image and likeness," with the announcement coming just hours after it was revealed that a key task force was looking into the matter.

Last month, California passed a law, effective in 2023, that will prevent schools from prohibiting college athletes from being compensated for their names, images and likenesses. Other states are considering similar legislation that could be effective as early as next year.

The chairman of the board told the Associated Press that the NCAA hopes to avoid a court battle with those states.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams could be one big name in favor of the change. When asked about the California bill four weeks ago, he said "I've never been one to say yes to paying players," but then told a story about one of Peyton Manning's games at Tennessee, when the university made hundreds of thousands in revenue from the sales of his jersey.

"Peyton Manning didn't get one cent," Williams said. "That’s not right. I've always had that feeling.”

Still, there's much work to be done and many details yet to be hammered out. The NCAA notes in its release that it will allow student-athletes to benefit "in a manner consistent with the collegiate model," which can be defined however the NCAA wants it to be.

“Today’s decision by the NCAA was another step in what could be a huge shift for college athletics," UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. "There is a lot to be considered before anything can be implemented.”

So what does this all mean for UNC athletics?

The short-term answer to that question is now up to the three divisions of the NCAA, who were compelled by the board to "create any new rules beginning immediately, but no later than January 2021." The board also offered the following specifics regarding any coming changes:

  • Athletes must be treated similarly to non-athletes, "unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate."
  • Any rules must "facilitate fair and balanced competition."
  • There must be differentiation between collegiate and professional opportunities.
  • A reaffirmation that athletes are students and not university employees.
  • Any change must "protect the recruiting environment." 

That's a lot of vague language, essentially contending that, despite potentially sweeping changes designed "for the 21st century" on the horizon, the core values espoused by the NCAA will remain intact. 

In the long run, the changes could lead to a large-scale economic shift for all parties — players, brands and universities. Last week, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson told the Wall Street Journal that the company would "jump at the opportunity" to bring back its popular NCAA video games, namely the football edition. It could also mean big business for future Zion Williamsons and Cole Anthonys, one-and-done basketball stars who need not wait until after going pro to profit off their name and likeness.

While there's still much to be decided – and some have pointed out that the problem the NCAA has just given itself is nearly impossible to solve – it seems clear that the move is a step in the right direction for both the survival of the NCAA as a governing body and the financial interests of those involved, including North Carolina.


@DTHSports |

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