The college sports landscape will inevitably change significantly in the coming years. California’s passage of the Fair Pay to Play Act — which would let student-athletes profit off their name, image and likeness — triggered an avalanche of similar proposals in states across the United States throughout the early part of the fall.
Florida is one of the states with a bill proposed already, mirroring the concept of the California law, which would go into effect in 2023.
The subject, of course, is nuanced and Blake James, the Miami Hurricanes’ athletic director, gave a nuanced response on the topic Tuesday, acknowledging there are some circumstances in which players should be able to profit off their likeness.
For the first time since the California law was signed, James was asked about his broad thoughts about name, image and likeness bills at Miami’s annual basketball media day. Below is his full, unedited response about his thoughts on the laws and how the NCAA will have to respond:
“We have to continue to evolve as an association and what it means to be a student athlete,” James said in Coral Gables. “I think something is going to change, obviously, with the law in California going into place. We can’t be playing by a bunch of different rules and so I do think there will be something nationally. Whether that’s state by state, which I think creates a lot of challenges because if everybody isn’t playing by the same rules I’m not sure how it exactly works — so hopefully at some point, either through the federal government or through the support by the states through the Association, which I honestly think would make more sense, but recognize that might not be an option given where this has now gone, we need to dictate what it means to be a student-athlete. I think we need to do a better job of communicating to the media and the public what it means to be a student-athlete. I think it’s a great experience. It’s one that is significantly different today than it was three years ago. It was significantly different three years ago than it was five, 10, 15, 20 years before that. With that said, it will continue to evolve.
“I think if there are legitimate situations where kids can capitalize on their name, image and likeness, we have to figure out a way as an association to allow them to monetize that value. I think where the tricky part comes is there’s a lot of strength in the name on the front of the jerseys in college athletics and I think it’s that balance. Is the notoriety because they’re the quarterback at ‘X’ university or is it because of who they are? And that’s the balance I think we need to figure out.
“I do think there are some unintended consequences with the legislation as written. I guess also potential loopholes that will cause some real serious questions in the future if we’re not able to modify that. With that said, I give the people on the legislature in California credit for putting that Jan. 1, 2023, start line on that, which will give us time to work through some of those issues and really create a situation that legitimately allows kids in those — I’ll say I think will be — rare situations to really significantly capitalize on their name, image and likeness. Not to say that there isn’t some broad things that won’t be able to happen, but I think if you look at it nationally there just isn’t a lot of students nationally that have that brand nationally. If I think about it last year in college basketball, there’s probably one — Zion Williamson — that had really a national appeal and that’s an individual who probably should’ve had different rules for someone who’s in that type of position, so it’s going to change, it’s changed over the last few years and it’ll continue to change.
I think part of that is we need to make sure we’re continuing that not only to all of you in the media, but to the general public because what it means to be a student-athlete I think is a special experience and one that I know all students enjoy. I have regular conversations with young people after they come having been away from us and their experience here — one, two, three, four years — is one real meaningful to them in their life.”