Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Tyrie Cleveland broke into a huge grin and clapped his hands excitedly.
For months, years even, he has been an outspoken proponent of a change in the NCAA allowing for athletes to profit off their likeness. And on Tuesday of the Georgia week just hours after news broke of the NCAA willing to look at a change—with a Top 10 matchup looming between the No. 6 Florida Gators and the No. 8 Bulldogs—Cleveland gladly put game talk on the back burner for a minute and talked about the monumental change that the NCAA is on the precipice of in relation to the desired change.
"It's a big step to heading in the next direction. You know, just hearing from the NCAA, just sending out votes, that's a great thing for players, player-athletes. I'm overwhelmed, I can't even—I’m excited, excited for the future."
In September, the state of California passed a law that would allow college athletes to profit off their likeness, meaning they could sign endorsement deals and agents to help broker said deals. This of course would benefit more those athletes that are more publicly known, like football players, and even then the ones with more recognizable names, like skill players. It’s been a deterring argument form some, that it wouldn’t be fair and could create division in locker rooms. But for the guys in those locker rooms, seeing a change that could help teammates is worth the risk.
“I don’t know like players backgrounds or where they come from,” said receiver Van Jefferson.
“It’s long overdue, definitely, definitely. But now that they’re making it an emphasis to do it, that’s great.”
Added receiver Freddie Swain, “I love it, I love it. We do a lot of work, put in a lot of work in this program and school, and it’s kind of like a job, you know what I mean? So I think we should be rewarded.”
On Tuesday the NCAA put the emphasis Jefferson mentioned on the change. With other states beginning to follow in California’s footsteps and Anthony Gonzalez, U.S. representative from Ohio, said he plans to introduce a fellow federal bill to the House to help further player compensation standards.
Players will still have to wait as the red tape is inevitably criss crossed. The NCAA’s statement on Tuesday didn’t make any sweeping changes; mores just the promise to look into changes.
“In the Association’s continuing efforts to support college athletes, the NCAA’s top governing board voted unanimously to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.
The Board of Governors’ action directs each of the NCAA’s three divisions to immediately consider updates to relevant bylaws and policies for the 21st century, said Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and president of The Ohio State University.
‘We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” Drake said. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.’”
The NCAA is asking each division to create new rules beginning immediately but no later than January 2021. The California bill will take affect 2023.
As the fight by players to receive compensation for their likeness kicked up, it took out its share of victims, most notably, the video game “NCAA Football.” College players were implanted into the game with their faces, jersey numbers, schools and everything that could identify them except their name. It was a way around the NCAA rules. In 2013, in a landmark Ed O’Bannon case, the video game was discontinued by EA Sports all together. They company has long said they’d be willing to pay players for their usage within the game, if allowed by the NCAA. With the news on Tuesday that looks to legalize that sort of deal in the future, the video game could make a come back.
“Me, personally, I feel like it wasn't really a big deal back then, but once they took away NCAA the game and stuff, everybody start questioning, like, 'Why you taking the game?' and stuff like that,” explained Cleveland.
But change is on the horizon and that makes it a good day for Tyrie Cleveland and college athletes everywhere.
Said Cleveland, “Most players agreed, 'Yeah, we should get paid for our likeness.' So just seeing them take steps in the right direction and not ignoring us. That's a good sign."