This past week, the NCAA Board of Governors voted to allow student-athletes the opportunity to “benefit” from the use of their names, images, and likenesses (NIL), in a manner “consistent with the collegiate model.” One of our member ADs, Florida Atlantic’s Brian White, a supporter of NIL rights for student-athletes, in a recent interview, rightly questioned why there has been no legislative focus on the professional leagues. He pointed out that there are student-athletes who feel forced to attend college merely because of age minimums in professional leagues. Brian argued that student-athletes who are talented enough to be professional athletes should have the opportunity at any age if they are physically ready, which by the way, is exactly the recommendation of the NCAA’s NIL Working Group.
Brian’s last point in the interview was right on target. He said, “If we are talking about politics influencing private organizations to ensure athletes are rightfully able to profit from the “free market”, we also need to look at age minimums in professional sports.” The federal and state governments are able to advance NIL legislation because of the hundreds of billions they spend on our colleges and universities. But federal, state and local governments have also spent billions over the last few years building new pro stadiums at taxpayer expense. Why is no legislator using that hook to push to get rid of age minimums in professional sports which force young athletes to go to college to become a pro? Why the focus just on college sports? Making colleges be the developmental minor leagues for professional sports is just as unfair as denying NIL rights for student-athletes.