Last week, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) proposed a new rule allowing elite Olympic and Paralympic athletes to have “additional training expenses” paid without jeopardizing their NCAA eligibility.

Athletes designated “elite” by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and national sport governing bodies would be allowed to receive “developmental training expenses, including travel for parents, guardians, coaches and sports experts” under the proposed legislation, which is to be voted on at the NCAA 2020 Convention taking place this week in Anaheim, California.

The Olympic and Paralympic athlete rule marks one of several modernization updates that the NCAA is considering instituting to its rules and policies. In October 2019, the NCAA Board of Governors announced it would take steps toward allowing college athletes the “opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” NCAA rules currently prohibit college athletes from being paid to play college sports beyond receiving a scholarship and aid package that covers the cost of their attendance and prohibits them from earning money from their publicity as a college athlete.

The NCAA’s proposed process to enhance name, image and likeness opportunities seemed to be a response to legislation introduced in several states that would allow college athletes to be paid for use of their name, image and likeness, including California’s “Fair Pay to Play Act” and several other bills in states such as Florida, Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.

The NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group, which includes presidents, commissioners, athletic directors, administrators and student-athletes will gather feedback through April 2020, with each NCAA division having until January 2021 to create new rules.

Takeaway: The NCAA’s proposed new rules signify a potential marked change in the organization’s decades-old policies, including its traditional “collegiate model” of barring student athletes from earning any money from their name, image and likeness. Time will tell whether the NCAA’s openness to modernize its policies will lead to the organization enacting real reform.