College sports memorabilia, including trading cards, jerseys, and even video games, have long been a touchy subject. For many years now, college athletes have been forbidden from profiting off of their name, image, and likeness (NIL). This created some thorny issues when it came to licensing, but recent changes in relevant rules and regulations may usher in a new age for college sports memorabilia. Trading card expert and BuyNiceCards founder Eric Bitz is going to break down these recent changes.
“You haven’t seen many college sports trading cards because the legal issues surrounding them have been very complex,” Eric Bitz points out. “Athletes themselves couldn’t profit from trading cards and other memorabilia. They couldn’t even sign things for profit.”
Up until recently, when an athlete signed with a college, he or she essentially signed over the rights to use their name, image, and likeness to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which is the supervising body for college sports. The NCAA, however, could profit off an athlete’s name, image, and likeness. This lead to accusations of economic exploitation.
After facing legal challenges and pushback from state lawmakers, the NCAA has changed its position. Now, college athletes are allowed to profit from their NIL, and can even sign sponsorship deals. This also opens the door college sports trading cards and for-profit autographs.
“The recent changes in policies for college athletes could prove seismic,” Eric Bitz of BuyNiceCards argues. “Many trading card companies have stayed away from college sports due to the legal gray areas and potential headaches. The new NIL policies opens doors and provides clarity.”
Still, we probably won’t see college trading cards produced and sold in the same way as professional sports cards, at least not right away. While the changing policies are resolving some issues, many gray areas and legal headaches remain.
Group licensing deals remain particularly problematic. For this reason, sports card manufacturers probably won’t offer league-wide trading cards featuring every college player. Future policy changes and negotiations may change that over time.
“Group licensing deals can be difficult to reach,” Eric Bitz of BuyNiceCards says. “What’s more likely in the immediate future are college card deals for individual athletes. We may see player-themed sets, for example. Team-level deals may also be more manageable.”
College and professional coaches are always on the lookout for the next generational talent, like Michael Jordan. And so too are sports card, trading enthusiasts. While some generational talents go straight into the professional leagues, Michael Jordan and other all-time greats have played in college.
“Imagine if you collect the college trading cards for the next huge athletic star, the next Michael Jordan or Tom Brady,” Eric Bitz of BuyNiceCards suggests. “Those cards could be worth a lot of money, and you’d own a unique piece of sports history.”