The NCAA wasn’t ready for name, image and likeness.
South Dakota wasn’t ready either.
But the NCAA passed rules at the final moment — June 30 before some states enacted new laws on July 1 — that allow athletes to make money off of their name, image and likeness while they are college athletes.
And by doing that, the NCAA bailed out the schools and the athletes in the Mount Rushmore State.
Legislators and university leaders in South Dakota had not proposed a bill about name, image and likeness. As of July 1, South Dakota was one of 10 states that didn’t have an NIL bill introduced in its state legislature, joined by North Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho, as well.
Right now, that looks like a blessing in disguise. In states without state laws, athletes are directed to follow their school rules on NIL. In the states with state laws, they are supposed to follow whatever is written in state statute.
The NCAA’s rules are pretty minimal. The main restrictions are that athletes can’t get paid for work they haven’t performed, compensation can’t be dangled as a perk for enrolling at a certain school, and athletes can’t be compensated directly for how they perform in a given sporting event.
It’s likely that these deals are going to be innocuous, and that’s the case so far locally. Chamberlain High School graduate and Nebraska defensive lineman Nash Hutmacher announced a deal this week with a Nebraska-based hunting and fishing company that sells clothing and makes custom bait and tackle. Seems fitting considering Hutmacher’s status as an avid outdoorsman.
University of South Dakota volleyball player Brooklyn Bollweg, a Harrisburg graduate, signed a sponsorship deal with a Sioux Falls-based car wash company. There will be opportunities in all locations and all sports, big and small.
And why shouldn’t athletes have a chance to capitalize on their earning power with an autograph signing at a car dealership or by sponsoring a youth sports clinic, or partner with a business that they feel strongly in or believe in.
Despite all of the hand-wringing and groveling to Congress about needing federal legislation, what the NCAA did should not upend college sports. It essentially decriminalized its own rules that previously barred marketing yourself as a college athlete.
It’s worth noting that NAIA schools have had loosened rules on NIL since last year without major incident and in that time, there has been very little, if any, impact on local institutions and their athletes. Maybe that is a sign of a lack of market demands, but it would seem that interest in the profiles of local athletes competing in all divisions will rise now with the NCAA's NIL rules in the spotlight.
Without the temporary rules from the NCAA, the playing field would not have been level for South Dakota college athletes, and that could have been a serious problem for competitiveness, recruiting and transfers. Fortunately, Jackrabbits and Coyotes and Wolves and Hardrockers are going to be on the same footing as their collegiate counterparts in other parts of their conferences and around the country. It will take a few years to know how this will all shake out and where the advantages might be for certain schools or markets.
The idea that this change will cause a college sports Armageddon seems unlikely. A person can love college sports and all of the traditions that go with them and the athletes that make them great. And at the same time, one can understand that the one-way flow of revenues and money in college sports has pointed away from those perform