NCAA allowing athletes to profit from their likeness could keep players like Stills in school

In October, the NCAA reversed course and announced a plan to allow college athletes to receive financial compensation for any use of their name, image and likeness (NIL). The NCAA governing board wants to have the parameters in place for the regulations change by January 2021.

If the policy was already in place, West Virginia defensive lineman Darius Stills might not be seriously mulling an early departure from Morgantown.

In multiple social media posts, Stills hinted that he might declare early and enter the 2020 NFL draft. Stills leaving after his junior season would be a curious decision based on his current draft stock. In the few sites that even have Stills as an evaluated prospect, the Fairmont native is expected to be a fifth-to-seventh round pick . A standout senior season could greatly improve his draft status.

We don’t know the specific situations that are guiding Stills decision, and I won’t pretend to know here. This is more of an analysis of players in Stills situation generally.

Every year we see players who are late-round picks at best choose to leave early and test the NFL draft waters. Players whose situations could be greatly improved by returning for their senior year. If these players were able to make money doing commercials for a local auto dealership or tavern, or sell their autograph, or get a loan from an agent, many likely would return to school because their financial situation wouldn’t require immediate NFL income.

Players in this situation often have kids or other family obligations that require them to make money now. NIL compensation would be godsend to these players and, for many, allow them to return to school and improve their draft stock. It’s a win-win for the athlete and the university.

Former WVU linebacker David Long was in Stills exact situation a year ago. A late-round draft prospect, Long nevertheless ended his college career early to pursue the NFL. Like Stills, we don’t know the exact reason Long chose to depart with a year of eligibility left. Maybe he didn’t want to deal with a coaching change. Maybe he felt he was ready for the NFL. Or maybe he just needed the money.

NIL isn’t going to keep players like Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or Ohio State defensive end Chase Young in school. They are top 10 prospects who are going to make millions on their initial NFL contract. Returning to college can only hinder, not help, their situations.

It’s players like Stills and Long, players who are middle-to-late-round prospects, that NIL might keep around longer. It’s one of the upsides of the NCAA’s decision.

It would be unfortunate if it came too late for WVU.