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California forces the NCAA's hand

NCAA college sports money
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The dam has officially cracked on college athletes benefiting from their own likenesses — now the question is how much ground the NCAA is actually willing to give.

Why it matters: California's landmark law, plus the threat of other states passing their own, has succeeded in forcing the NCAA to back away from its nuclear threats around player benefits.

  • The group's board of governors voted Tuesday to consider letting players benefit from their own names, images and likenesses.
  • What they're saying: Board chair Michael V. Drake said in a statement, "We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes."

Between the lines: Exactly what the NCAA will be giving up is far from clear, as Bloomberg notes.

  • The "NCAA stopped short of saying athletes would actually get paid."
  • "[G]etting paid to play isn’t on the table."
  • “The board of governors voted to allow players to ‘benefit’ from use of their name, image and likeness,” said NCAA players association executive director Ramogi Huma. “This is not a green light to receive ‘compensation.’"

The big picture: The NCAA is surrendering, Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker writes.

  • This was always going to happen. It was just a matter of when and how messy it was going to get with various states involved.

What to watch: As details are ironed out, expect a battle over control of college athletes’ licensing rights, Kendall tells me.

  • The NFLPA and NCPA (National College Players Association) signed a partnership yesterday.
  • The deal directly undercuts the NCAA and could provide a rubric for who goes to market with the licensing rights for athletes in major sports.