Associate Director of Athletics for Compliance Christian Bray, who reviews all student-athlete activities involving the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL), had seen the real-life limitations of the former policy — such as one student-athlete who could not publish an athletics-related book under their own name and another who could not market a sport-specific gadget they created. “In my experience, the old rule not only kept student-athletes from being compensated for endorsements, but also stifled ingenuity and creativity,” Bray said.
The NCAA developed its rules on financial aid, recruitment, and academic standards after World War II to ensure amateurism and level the playing field between schools with differing resources. Student-athletes were allowed to receive, at most, scholarships and stipends for living costs. Many felt those benefits were insufficient, a complaint that grew as more money flowed into marquee sports programs from television and other sources.
After years of proposals about the most effective way to bring NCAA amateurism rules into the 21st century, individual U.S. states this summer began enacting laws allowing student-athletes to use their own names, images, and likenesses, prompting the NCAA to announce an interim national policy.
Influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of the Alston v. NCAA antitrust decision in late June, the new NCAA rules allow many endorsement opportunities and open the doors for student-athletes in social media, publishing, and other fields. NCAA rules that prohibit schools from providing recruiting incentives to prospective athletes or compensating them for competing on their teams remain in place.
Erin McDermott, the John D. Nichols ’53 Family Director of Athletics, shared Harvard’s NIL policy with student-athletes earlier this month to help them navigate opportunities and share best practices for managing potential consequences, which could include tax obligations and financial aid implications.