One of the most significant changes in the history of college sports is the recent adoption of rules by the NCAA allowing for players to market their Names, Images, and Licensing (NIL) for profit. These rules allow players to sign commercial endorsement deals, sell their own images/branding on apparel, and charge money for autographs (among other ways to capitalize on NIL). The NCAA was forced to adopt such rules in response to federal court decisions, notably NCAA v. Alston, decided in 2021 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in the players favor. The movement towards NIL in college athletics has, of course, inspired much commentary. Critics broadly contend that NIL deals a death blow to amateurism, which they argue is an essential component of intercollegiate athletics. Supports of NIL make the overarching claim that student-athletes are exploited by NCAA members schools as millions of dollars are being made off the sweat of modestly compensated scholarship athletes, who are taking all the physical risks. Within those competing narratives are other more nuanced discussions about the role of student athletes and the impact of big-time college sports on the educational missions of member schools. In this research we employ Q methodology to examine the subjective appraisals of college sports fans of the NCAA’s adoption of NIL, in order to identify the structure of that subjectivity.
Professor and Chair, School of Social Sciences, Westminster College, Pennsylvania, United States Dan B Thomas
Professor of Political Science (Emeritus), Social Sciences, Wartburg College
NCAA, NIL, Q Methodology, Opinion