NIL Legislation Offers Educational Opportunity

The NCAA Board of Governors recently voted unanimously to allow athletes to benefit from their name, image, and likeness as long as those benefits stay within the “collegiate model” and “maintain the priorities of education and the collegiate experience.”

While the landscape surrounding athlete compensation is changing dramatically, don’t think these changes will occur overnight as it will take time to debate and work out details relating to issues such as recruitment and compliance. But that debate shouldn’t simply be about providing athletes an opportunity to earn extra money.

Equal consideration should be given to the opportunity such change provides to undergo a much-needed restructuring of the curriculum and educational experience for athletes. Specifically, providing athletes the opportunity to leverage their name and build their personal “brand” offers an unprecedented opportunity to restructure the athlete/institutional “contract” in a way that makes sense for today’s highly commercialized world of college athletics. Such a curriculum could provide opportunities to teach lessons in business using a case study – their very own – where they learn the skills of innovation, branding, and entrepreneurship.

Athletes will be much more academically engaged if their curriculum includes a healthy dose of how to leverage their name and image to build a personal brand or a small business. Such a curriculum could include studies in marketing, branding, accounting, revenue development, investing, sales, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Such “real life” subject matter is more likely to be viewed as being more relevant by today’s athletes than the current traditional curriculum.

While there may have been a time when athletes could achieve a well-balanced athletic and traditional academic experience, for “big time” football and men’s basketball athletes, that possibility no longer exists. While the athletic side of the enterprise has evolved exponentially, the expectations and standards relating to the academic side of that equation have remained virtually unchanged. We simply cannot continue to run a 21st-century athletics enterprise with a 20th-century mindset and world view.

Further, the vast majority of these athletes will either never play professionally or, if they do, their careers will only last a few years. Think of how much more attractive they will be to potential employers and entrepreneurs for them to be being able to say that they didn’t simply read about various business strategies and practices but have actually developed such entrepreneurial skills in real life and real-time with their own business.

The NCAA claims a commitment to making sure the benefits associated with the new NIL rules stay within the “collegiate model” and “maintain the priorities of education and the collegiate experience”. Hopefully, amidst all of the talk about money and benefits, we don’t squander the opportunity to restructure the curriculum to provide athletes an honest, relevant and real-world educational experience that reflects the realities of today’s highly commercialized, multi-billion dollar business of college athletics.

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