Name, Imagine and Likeness, Alston’s NCAA Payouts Explained

The NCAA logo is seen in the second half of the game between the Northwestern Wildcats and the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 16, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Christian Petersen/Getty Images/TNS)

The NCAA logo is seen in the second half of the game between the Northwestern Wildcats and the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 16, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images/TNS)


As the world of college sports transforms, new phrases have entered its nomenclature over the past year.

NIL is in fashion. Alston is thrown around often. What does all this mean?

In short, many things that used to bring NCAA investigators to town no longer do. Extra perks are no longer against the rules, but not everything is allowed.

But while NIL and Alston are grouped together because they are both opportunities for college athletes to receive compensation, they are also distinctly different.

Here is a primer on the terms:


Short for Name, Image and Likeness, NIL represents earning opportunities for college athletes that were inadmissible prior to July 1st.

For decades, NCAA rules have prohibited college athletes from engaging in marketing and sponsorship deals, even if college students who are not involved in track and field can do so. Even with the rise of social media and people becoming influencers thanks to large followings on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms, college athletes could not benefit.

In 2009, former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA and Collegiate Licensing Company because an EA Sports basketball video game featured a player who wore a UCLA jersey, looked like him, and played in the same position. About 20 other former college athletes, including Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell, joined him.

EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company settled their part of the lawsuit for $40 million. But the NCAA struggled. In 2014, a federal district court in California ruled that the NCAA’s practices violated antitrust laws.

The NCAA appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s decision. The NCAA was ordered to pay the plaintiffs $42.2 million in damages and court costs.

Meanwhile, state legislatures across the country ruled that this was an unfair violation of the free market system and several bills introduced to challenge the NCAA and allow college athletes in their states to benefit from NIL activities.

The NCAA has fought the change for years, instead asking Congress to create federal laws on the subject rather than having its member schools subject to different laws from state to state.

Even though Congress failed to act, the NCAA changed its statutes last summer to allow athletes to receive outside benefits from NIL activities.

Some things are still not allowed. The NCAA says NIL benefits should not be used as recruitment incentives, and athletes cannot receive compensation tied directly to on-court performance.

For example, companies should not promise a certain payment for enrolling or staying at a particular school. A basketball player cannot receive a bonus payout for, say, scoring 30 points in a game.


This word derives from the Supreme Court case, NCAA v. Alston, which began in 2014 when former West Virginia basketball player Shawne Alston and former California basketball player Justine Hartman filed a lawsuit.

They represented a class of former college athletes claiming that the NCAA unfairly limited their earning potential.

The same federal judge in the O’Bannon case, District Judge Claudia Wilken of California, ruled in 2019 that NCAA rules restricting education-based compensation violated antitrust laws.

The decision initially involved non-monetary compensation for educational benefits linked to their field of study, such as computers, scientific equipment and musical instruments. But it also allowed college athletes to receive payment for summer internships. It has been expanded to include payments of up to $5,980 per year based on academic performance.

The NCAA appealed to the Supreme Court, which voted 9-0 on June 21 to uphold the lower court’s decision.

With that, compensation became permitted under NCAA rules. But it is up to schools to decide whether or not to provide them.

So far, according to ESPN research, only 22 of the 130 schools participating in the highest level of college football (the Football Bowl Subdivision) have plans to make payments of $5,980.

In the ACC, only North Carolina, Clemson and Miami have started providing payments to Alston. In March, NC State announced that its plan, called the Wolfpack Academic Incentive Program, would begin in the fall semester of 2022. NC State payments will begin to graduates this summer and returning students in the fall.

This story was originally published May 10, 2022 5:10 am

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Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. He took second place in beat writing and breaking news in the 2019 National Associated Press Sports Editors contest. Previously, Steve worked for The State (Columbia, SC), Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, SC), The Sun Herald ( Biloxi, Miss.), Charlotte Observer and Hickory (NC) Daily Record covering hits including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina Athletics and the SC General Assembly. He has won several press association awards at the state level. Steve graduated from Illinois State University in 1989.


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