Why NCAA athletes can't monetize on YouTube and other platforms

July 18, 2021

As social media platforms and opportunities for monetization become commonplace, it only seems like a logical step for a student athlete to get involved. However, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) policies have long banned student athletes from endorsing products, monetizing content, or getting any payments beyond what covers their college costs.

According to the NCAA, the reason for these policies is straightforward, hoping to encourage amateur sports pursuits by individuals who consider themselves students first and athletes second. However, after multiple athletes have been deemed ineligible following the discovery of something as harmless as a YouTube channel, politicians and student advocates have pushed back.

So, is the NCAA changing its policies? Here's what you need to know.

Athletes put at odds with NCAA policies

The NCAA has long inflicted penalties against athletes who, directly or indirectly, attempted to earn money from their NCAA status. With the rise of social media and its opportunity to monetize content, these rules have created countless conflicts.

One notable example is now-famous YouTuber Ryan Trahan, who started his channel as an NCAA Texas A&M cross-country athlete, but ultimately had to give up his status to continue pursuing his passion as a content creator. His story made headlines as ESPN and other sources tackled the complicated issue, showcasing the likes of Trahan along with former UCF kicker Donald De La Haye, both of whom felt the rules were unfair and outdated given the prevalence of social media platforms like YouTube.

In the years since, Trahan has become a highly successful YouTuber, with more than 3.4 million subscribers. Meanwhile, De La Haye has achieved similar numbers since NCAA ruled him ineligible back in 2017. Both these former athletes, and countless others, have since stepped up to express how unreasonable they consider these policies and decisions.

Contradictions in NIL monetization rules

While the NCAA has faced a backlash from students, 19 states have also passed policies in recent years that allow college athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness—directly contradicting the aforementioned NCAA policies. To add to it, the Supreme Court told the NCAA in a unanimous decision in June that they could not continue to prohibit the academic perks some colleges offer athletes that go beyond the cost of attending.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh gave his opinion on the matter, stating: "To be sure, the NCAA and its member colleges maintain important traditions that have become part of the fabric of America, [b]ut those traditions alone cannot justify the NCAA's decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated."

Given this news, the Division I Council, which consists of NCAA conference commissioners along with athletic directors, gave a formal recommendation that the NCAA Board of Directors adopt an interim policy allowing for students to benefit from their name, image, and likeness, so as to align with emerging state laws. On June 30, the NCAA officially made the announcement that things would be changing.

Can NCAA athletes get paid under new policies?

Spokespeople for the NCAA recently came forward to announce to Forbes and other sources that their policies are changing. As of now, an interim policy is in effect that allows athletes to begin benefitting (including financially) from their name, image, and likeness, or "NIL."

At the moment, the specific requirements are patchy at best, with the NCAA simply stating that students must follow all relevant state laws. Meanwhile, the NCAA continues working with Congress to create nationwide standards. According to Forbes, "The new policy applies to current and future athletes across all three collegiate sports divisions, including high-level Division I schools."

The NCAA's new NIL policy is expected to clear students to engage in activities previously prohibited, whether or not they go to college in a state with NIL laws. The changes such a policy will bring about include:

  • The ability for players to accept money from third-party companies, although they won't be able to accept money directly from schools.
  • The option to use a professional services provider, as long as they report NIL activities consistent with school and/or state requirements.

When this announcement was made, college athletes wasted no time enjoying the perks of their newfound freedoms. Graham Mertz, a Wisconsin quarterback, announced an upcoming personal trademark in a video statement. Meanwhile, Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon made plans to debut an apparel line.

Student athletes still cannot monetize on social media

Social media monetization has long been off-limits for student athletes, so many publications were excited to announce that it's seemingly an option under NCAA policies, but don't jump to conclusions so quickly. While the new policies do not directly prevent student athletes from monetizing on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook Watch, complex rulings from various universities makes it anything but straightforward.

Many university athletic departments have come out to tell students that they cannot monetize through the display of products, services, or names from competing brands. For example, a University of Oklahoma athlete may have a deal with Nike, but platforms like YouTube are not going to track who's a student athlete, what school they go to, and which brands are considered. Yet, a student is expected to never display the ads of Nike's competitors.

As you can see, this makes monetization impossible on social media platforms since the ads displayed are completely out of your control. So, if you are an NCAA student athlete, you may have been quick to turn on social media monetization following the most recent announcements. However, due to these complications, you must turn them off. This includes the YouTube Partner Program, IGTV Ad Revenue from the Instagram Creators Program, and Facebook Watch In-Stream Ads through their Partner Program.

How NCAA athletes can make money now

It's both disappointing and frustrating for student athletes to try to understand the complexities of the NCAA's recent rulings alongside all the rules their state and university may impose upon them. It may even leave you with a sense of hopelessness, convinced that there are too many hoops to jump through to begin benefitting from these new NIL policies.

With a platform like Curastory, you can begin monetizing your video content. We have two features in our platform that protect student athletes with guardrails in place: our non-competes feature and our sponsorship preference feature. You'll make both selections during the simple five-step account setup process.

Don't post directly

This is a crazy time for NIL monetization. In order to protect yourself, you should not post directly to YouTube, IGTV, or Facebook Watch, and you should make sure your monetization preferences on all of these platforms are turned off.

Avoid competing ads

Curastory non-compete feature during creator account setup

For the non-compete feature, creators can browse all of our brand partner customer accounts and add them to their account settings if they have a contract with them offline. For example, one of our creators on the platform now has an offline relationship with Beyond Meat, who is a current brand partner customer running campaigns through Curastory.

By browsing and adding Beyond Meat to their non-competes section within their account settings, we automatically flag any campaign ad requests from competing brands. If we determine the flagged request is competitive, we'll block all ad spot requests from that competitor until the creator removes Beyond Meat from their account settings.

Set sponsorship preferences

Curastory sponsorship preference during creator account setup

If you as a creator have any offline contracts with brand partners that are not listed in Curastory, set your account to "Review ad spot bid requests" instead of setting it to "Auto-accept ad spot bid requests," so you can review and accept or decline competing ad spot bid requests yourself.

When setting up your Curastory accounts, browse and add any current non-competes belonging to you or your university. If you do not see any brand partner accounts that need to be added when browsing, set your sponsorship preference to review.

Try Curastory today

Curastory makes your life as a student athlete simpler, allowing you to sleep easy at night knowing that you're following the complex rules set by your university and the NCAA. Ready to get started? Sign up and create a Curastory account today to protect yourself and begin reaping the profits of your NCAA status.

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