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July 01, 2021

College athletes in Pennsylvania can now be compensated for their names, images and likenesses

A new state law legalizes – and limits – the sweeping NCAA policy change

Student-athletes at colleges across Pennsylvania can join others around the country in profiting off their names, images and likenesses – a seismic shift of NCAA policy. 

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed legislation prohibiting schools and athletic leagues from sanctioning college athletes who earn royalties from sales of team jerseys, college team video games or college team trading cards. Student-athletes also can hire financial advisers, lawyers or agents to negotiate contracts on their behalf.

The NCAA suspended its rules regarding a student-athlete's name, image and likeness, or NIL, on Thursday. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix was among the first to take advantage of the policy change, announcing a sponsorship with Milo's Tea Company just after midnight.

Elsewhere, Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton and Miami quarterback D'Eriq King launched a website called Dreamfield, which hopes to provide student-athletes with a platform to arrange meet-and-greet sessions and photo and video shoots for marketing campaigns and more.

"Our commitment to you is to provide a safe and secure way to exchange products, secure bookings and introduce new ideas that uniquely represent you so that you may be rewarded for the fruits of your labor," the website says.

University of Pennsylvania interim Athletic Director Rudy Fuller said the policy change ushered in a "new era of intercollegiate athletics" and that Penn is "well-positioned to meet the needs of our student-athletes regarding NIL."

Villanova Hall of Fame basketball coach Jay Wright echoed that sentiment, tweeting: "This is certainly a new day for college athletics and its student-athletes. I look forward to our players having the chance to explore the new opportunities this state and NCAA legislation will afford them."

At Temple University, acting Athletic Director Fran Dunphy said the school is "excited for its student-athletes to be able to use their NIL in accordance with state law and will provide them with education to help navigate the process."

Penn State Athletics, meanwhile, unveiled a program called STATEment, which it said will "aide students in understanding and growing their brand through meaningful education programs and an emphasis on entrepreneurship."

Pennsylvania is one of more than 20 states to pass legislation legalizing compensation for student-athletes, although the NCAA said those in states without NIL laws can profit off their names, images and likenesses without violating the organization's rules. 

"With the variety of state laws adopted across the country, we will continue to work with Congress to develop a solution that will provide clarity on a national level," NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday in a news release. "The current environment – both legal and legislative – prevents us from providing a more permanent solution and the level of detail student-athletes deserve."

There are some limits on what student-athletes can do under Pennsylvania's new NIL law. They cannot be compensated in connection with adult entertainment, alcohol, casinos, gambling, betting, tobacco, vaping, prescription drugs or illegal drugs. Schools can also prohibit a student-athlete’s compensation from activities they deem to conflict with "existing institutional sponsorship arrangements" or "institutional values."

Student-athletes must report contracts to their schools, and schools and athletic leagues can't be required to help student-athletes earn compensation.

The change in NCAA policy comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the governing body cannot limit education-related benefits, like computers and paid internships, that colleges can offer student-athletes.