The NCAA has been forced to rethink its longstanding (and unpopular) rules on college athletes profiting from their name and likeness, thanks to California’s Fair Pay to Play Act. There’s been little progress on that since the law was passed in late September, but the NCAA is relaxing its rules on another front.
At the NCAA convention on Wednesday, the Division I council passed legislation that will allow athletes to be compensated for training and travel expenses. There is a catch, though: this legislation doesn’t apply to all athletes, only to those designated as “elite” by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee or corresponding national governing bodies in other countries.
The USOPC already offers this kind of compensation for athletes training for the Olympics, but until now, college athletes would risk their NCAA eligibility by accepting it. The NCAA is allowing college athletes to be compensated for their own travel and training, as well as travel for parents, trainers, and coaches. Rules regarding practice limits will also be relaxed for potential Olympians, allowing them to work more with their college coaches.
“The intent is to be as supportive of student-athletes, college athletes as we can be and allow them this very extraordinary singular opportunity to represent their country every four years and do that in a way that isn’t damaging to the overall college athletic model,” NCAA president Mark Emmert told USA Today. “The NCAA has been trying to be as helpful as it can both to the U.S. Olympic movement and also to the young men and women that get to compete in those sports.”
Considering that the year is now 2020 and college athlete-Olympians have been dealing with this problem for years, the NCAA probably could have been helpful a whole lot earlier.
Despite the NCAA being constantly late to the “helping athletes” party, this is a step in the right direction. College athletes who want to train for the Olympics are going above and beyond what is required to compete for their school, and need additional resources — like money and coaching time — to do it. The USOPC is willing to fund them so they can be at the top of their game, and the NCAA is finally getting out of the way so these athletes don’t have to give up their college eligibility in order to properly represent their country.
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