BOILING SPRINGS – A Supreme Court decision in June and actions by Congress, state legislatures and the NCAA enable college student-athletes the freedom to receive compensation for their name, image and likeness. To examine what these decisions mean for the future of college athletics, Gardner-Webb University President William M. Downs recently invited an expert panel to discuss the topic for the first Webb Connections event of the semester.

A video of the discussion, “The Supreme Court, the NCAA and the Future for College Athletics,” premiered Sept. 30 on Gardner-Webb’s YouTube Channel and Facebook page. Panel members addressed the legal foundation for the Supreme Court ruling and also talked about what the name, image and likeness guidelines mean for student-athletes and how they affect team dynamics.

The panelists were:

Kyle Kallander, Big South commissioner.

Kelli Bartik, sports anchor for WCCB Charlotte.

Alex Simmons, coach of GW women’s basketball.

Jim Chester, coach of GW baseball.

Anna Marie Fish, GW soccer player.

Steve Serck, Gardner-Webb University counsel.

Panelists were excited about the potential benefits of the new rules for students, but also expressed concern about name, image and likeness crossing a line into endorsements. Kallander noted two key tenets to the new legislation from the NCAA.

It can’t be pay for play and you can’t use it as a recruiting inducement,” Kallander said, noting recruiting inducement is already happening. “It’s only been two months. How do we put the genie back in the bottle as far as that goes and how do we control this moving forward so that it doesn’t become an unfair situation?”

The other panelists chimed in, mentioning examples of student-athletes from across the United States, as well as Fish from GWU, who are already benefiting from the new rules. Because of her presence on social media, Fish has become a brand ambassador for Celsius energy drinks. Before the name, image and likeness rules were put into place, eligibility requirements prevented student-athletes from participating in brand ambassador programs.

I post on Instagram a few times a month and they send me products,” she explained. “It’s not always about getting cash, which is completely fine. Not having to buy pre-workout twice a month is nice.”

The discussion ended with each panelist predicting what would happen to college athletics in five years. While noting how the name, image and likeness rules could give the larger schools advantages, the panelists hoped schools like Gardner-Webb would draw student-athletes who were committed to the school’s mission.

Fish concluded that she hoped the name, image and likeness doesn’t go as far as pay to play and that athletes get the opportunities they deserve while giving back to their communities in ways like holding clinics for children.

I hope the athletes’ characters stays intact,” Fish said. “People need to not look at the money but what good sports provides the world.”

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