HPS Insight

More Than Just Sports: Analyzing The NCAA Name, Image, Likeness Debate

February 20, 2020
5 min read

By: Bryce Campanelli, bcampanelli@hamiltonps.com and Mariel Messier, mmessier@hamiltonps.com

The long standing debate over compensating student athletes entered a new phase, with NCAA President Mark Emmert recently telling a congressional subcommittee that the association will detail “recommendations on compensation policy changes [for student-athletes] by January 2021 with a preview of early ideas to be released in April.” (Bloomberg) Congress and state legislators have been pursuing changes to the rules preventing payments to student-athletes since California upended college athletics with the first state law requiring student-athletes to be fairly compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL).  

By signing the Fair Pay to Play Act into law, the Governor of California set in motion a dynamic process that will play out over the coming years and ultimately decide how student-athletes across all divisions and sports are compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness. 

Over the past five months, the NCAA, state legislators, student-athlete advocates, and Congress have weighed in with initial reactions and desired outcomes of this debate. In October 2019, in a move that once seemed far-fetched, the NCAA Board of Governors voted unanimously to develop a NIL policy. A few weeks later, a bipartisan congressional group announced plans to investigate and make their own recommendations on a NIL policy. 

While an ultimate decision on exactly how the NCAA will engage around fair compensation remains a few months off, over the next several months, the landscape for this discussion will be shaped by social, political, and media dynamics. Indeed, it already is. 

To better understand the evolving narrative surrounding NIL, the prevalence of state and national policies, and the voices driving the conversation, HPS conducted an analysis of media coverage of over 6,500 news articles to determine the frequency and penetration of 117 key terms in relation to NIL policies. This approach offers an alternative to commonly-used sentiment analysis by delivering insights about how much an issue is discussed within an article and which messages are present—and to what extent—in media coverage. 

Here’s what we found. Over the course of these decisions:

  • Discourse has focused on football and basketball, states that have proposed NIL policies, and potential types of compensation. 
  • Title IX, smaller athletic conferences, and non-revenue generating sports are rarely included in the conversation.
  • Policymakers have increasingly contributed to the NIL conversation, with their voices represented nearly as much as NCAA voices in coverage over the past two months.
  • Heading into 2020, national coverage was rising, driven by political headwinds and states that have proposed NIL policies. 
  • Coverage focused on unintended consequences more often than opportunities for athletes.

California has kicked off a national conversation about athletes’ rights and forced everyone to take action, moving beyond periodic discussions and into the realm of new governance policies. What remains to be seen is how the NCAA and policymakers will balance the benefits and advantages currently offered to student-athletes, including more than $3 billion annually in scholarships, with new economic realities spurred by technology, social networks, and our media culture. The smart position for the NCAA is to actively engage in these current discussions to develop a new framework for adequately compensating student athletes in the modern landscape. 


NCAA Blog Post by Hamilton Place Strategies on Scribd


More Insights