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Name, image, likeness ready to take flight, but schools like NDSU grounded with the muddled NCAA mess

Student-athletes will be able to profit off of their popularity beginning July 1, but Bison A.D. Larsen says 'there are no rules yet."

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North Dakota State's quarterback Trey Lance acknowledges the crowd after the win over James Madison during the NCAA FCS championship game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. If Lance remained at NDSU, he probably would have been able to profit off of his popularity. David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — Name. Image. Likeness. They are three words that have been talked about for a few years within the NCAA and its member schools, and the starting line is two weeks away.

Clarity of the stipulation, however, is seemingly months away.

“The game is going to start in a couple of weeks and we don’t have the rules yet,” said North Dakota State athletic director Matt Larsen.

Name, image, likeness will allow student-athletes to profit off their popularity and status. In essence, beginning July 1, they will be able to negotiate their own commercial deals or get paid for teaching lessons in their sport or signing autographs.

But in the case of NDSU, and most schools around the country, how that will happen is a muddled mess. Larsen said he’s waiting for the NCAA to finalize the parameters of how name, image, likeness will work. For instance, what types of activities can student-athletes profit off of? Or on the flipside, what areas won’t they be able to make money. One certainty is athletic departments will not be allowed to negotiate on the student-athlete’s behalf.

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Adding to the confusion is possible government control. A few states have passed laws allowing name, image, likeness, but most, like North Dakota, have not. School administrators and coaches like Gonzaga head men’s basketball coach Mark Few have testified in Congress lobbying for some sort of national policy.

“So you don’t have 50 states with 50 different ways to profit,” Larsen said. “I think the real push is to try and get Congress to intercede. All of these state laws right now are null and void.”

Larsen said he’s anticipating the NCAA Council to pass something within the next week. If established, it may be a matter of only a few days for schools to figure out how to deal with name, image, likeness.

“It’s a freight train heading toward us, but we don’t have all the parameters,” Larsen said. “We’re waiting for the final parameters to be in place and that will dictate how we can move forward with coaches and student-athletes.”

If quarterback Trey Lance remained at NDSU instead of opting early for the NFL Draft, it’s a good bet he would have been able to profit off of his popularity, most likely with companies in the Fargo-Moorhead area. And most likely, name, image, likeness at NDSU would involve football or basketball players. The stipulation is not sport-specific.

Whatever the case, the old notion of the NCAA being guided by amateurism is going away.

"I think they'll be a number of student-athletes who will have the opportunity at some level," Larsen said.

Current NCAA rules do not allow a student-athlete to endorse a product, even if he or she isn’t paid for it. With name, image, likeness, there are those who believe the NCAA is further losing its power over college athletics.

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USA Today reported the NCAA’s proposed changes with name, image, likeness conflict with state laws on the subject. Last week, the United States Senate held a hearing titled “NCAA Athlete NIL rights.”

Few argued that the state of Washington, home to Gonzaga, does not have a name, image, likeness law and that would put schools in states that don’t have it at a competitive disadvantage, especially in recruiting.

“Stay tuned,” Larsen said. “Hopefully we’ll know a lot more in the next week to 10 days. Our student-athletes have a lot of questions, too. What does this mean for them?”

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North Dakota State wide receiver Phoenix Sproles dives for the goal line after beating Youngstown State's Ray Anderson on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at Stambaugh Stadium in Youngstown, Ohio. David Samson / The Forum

Related Topics: TREY LANCE
Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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