A New Era: UTRGV reacts to new NCAA name, image and likeness policy

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HARLINGEN (KVEO) – NCAA athletes now have the power to do what no other NCAA athletes in history could do.

Athletes can get paid.

“It’s transformational,” UTRGV Athletic Director Chasse Conque said.

Change is hard.

On June 21, the Supreme Court unanimously voted to uphold the lower court’s decision stating the NCAA’s restriction on “education-relation benefits” violated anti-trust law. The NCAA responded on June 30, adopting an interim “name, image and likeness policy,” allowing athletes to benefit from their own personal brands through avenues ranging from autograph signings to personal appearances.

“Now that it’s finally settled in, I’m like, ‘alright, I have got to take advantage of this,'” UTRGV Student-Athlete Elizabeth Ortiz said.

As both a track & field athlete and the president of the student-athlete advisory committee, Ortiz believes this decision is a game-changer for her and her fellow athletes. UTRGV Deputy Athletic Director Molly Castner agrees, but she insists safety needs to be a priority.

“I think we talk about life skills and teaching life skills a lot. Now we have a practical classroom to do so,” Castner said. “I want to make sure as they are going out into the business world, that they are still maintaining that student-athlete experience, that they are still competing at a high level, and that they are balancing their schoolwork with their entrepreneurial dreams.”

Despite the recent adoption of the policy, Castner and Conque have been working toward the possibility of this reality for months, noting the potential passing of similar Texas legislation as a means to prepare.

“Number one is protecting our young people,” Conque said.

In an effort to protect student-athletes, the UTRGV Compliance Office will play a major role in evaluating student-athlete-business practices. Castner notes the UTRGV Legal Team will be on hand to assist as well.

Meanwhile, student-athletes are wasting no time.

Since the policy went into effect on July 1, student-athletes have jumped at the opportunity to profit from their personal brands. University of Texas Guard Andrew Jones took to Instagram the day the policy was announced, detailing the release of his brand-new clothing line. Ortiz has some ideas up her sleeve, too.

“I definitely have some ideas,” Ortiz said with a smile. “I don’t want to spoil too much, but I’m definitely getting my brand started and I’m definitely going to take advantage of this. It’s a big thing.”

Conque and Castner noted that UTRGV administration has not met with student-athletes face-to-face. Once athletes return from summer vacation, UTRGV athletic administrators will focus on guiding, educating, and assisting the student-athlete population as they begin life in a whole new era of collegiate sport.

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