Pac 12 proposal would help level playing field for student-athletes

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

College athletics power conferences are using newfound power to chip away at the NCAA’s amateurism model.

The Pac 12 Conference proposed a rule change Sept. 11 that would let student-athletes use their image to promote their own business endeavors.

Student-athletes, however, will not be allowed to associate themselves with their schools or mention they are student-athletes. Also, they will not be permitted to appear in advertisements for other businesses.

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The power five conferences — Pac 12, Big 10, Big 12, ACC and SEC — will vote on this proposal and other rule changes in January. If those conferences pass the rule, the other 27 Division I conferences will have the option to adopt it.

This type of vote is a result of the NCAA’s new autonomy structure in which the power five conferences can make rules, as opposed to the NCAA alone having the power.

Southeast Missouri State assistant athletic director of compliance Rachel Blunt said the Pac 12’s proposal is a step toward reversing the NCAA’s amateurism model for student-athletes.

“At this point in time, this is the start of being able to utilize the name, picture or likeness,” Blunt said. “If this were to go into effect, this would change the legislation that’s existed for the last several years.”

As the rule currently stands, student-athletes can be declared ineligible for promoting their businesses or careers. Such was the case of Joel Bauman, a former wrestler at Minnesota. 

Bauman, an aspiring musician, sold a song on iTunes. Because he used his own name and identified himself as a Minnesota wrestler, he was declared ineligible. 

Missouri Valley Conference Associate Commissioner for Institutional Services Gregory Walter said the proposal would help student-athletes learn about entrepreneurship — something they are currently restricted from.

“It’s increasingly concerning that student-athletes are being put at a disadvantage relative to the general student body,” Walter said. “And I think that’s what the Pac-12 proposal is trying to get at.”

Walter said while this change would be a step in the right direction, it is not a noteworthy one.

“I don’t think it’s hugely significant,” Walter said. “Right now, student-athletes can have their own non-athletically-related businesses, and they can promote that business. They just can’t use their name or image.”

External efforts are also ongoing to allow NCAA student-athletes to profit from their names and likenesses. Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon is leading a class action lawsuit against the NCAA for the use of student-athlete likenesses in video games.

SIU assistant athletic director for compliance Matt Vincent said the NCAA’s amateurism rules have come a long way in the last several years.

“When I started working in athletics, if a student-athlete had a job, it counted towards their cost of attendance,” said Vincent, who has worked in college athletics at SIU and Central Michigan since 2001. “I think this is a step in the right direction. There’s more opportunities for student-athletes now.”

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269

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