The NCAA took the first step Tuesday toward allowing amateur athletes to cash in on their fame, voting unanimously to permit them to "benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness."

The nation's largest governing body for college sports and its member schools now must figure out how to allow athletes to profit while still maintaining rules regarding amateurism. The NCAA Board of Governors, meeting at Emory University in Atlanta, directed each of the NCAA's three divisions to create the necessary new rules immediately and have them in place no later than January 2021.

Board chairman Michael V. Drake, the president of Ohio State University, said the NCAA must embrace change and modernize "to provide the best possible experience for college athletes."

But such changes will come with limitations, he said.

"The board is emphasizing that change must be consistent with the values of college sports and higher education and not turn student-athletes into employees of institutions," Drake told The Associated Press.

A group of NCAA administrators has been exploring since May the ways in which athletes could be allowed to receive compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses, also known as NIL. The working group, led by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, presented a status report Tuesday to the university presidents who make up the Board of Governors.

Smith and Ackerman's group laid out principles and guidelines, endorsed by the board, to be followed as NCAA members go about crafting new rules and tweaking existing ones, including:

• Making clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities.

• Making clear that compensation for athletic performance or participation is impermissible.

• Protecting the recruiting environment and prohibiting inducements to select, remain at or transfer to a specific institution.

Smith reiterated Tuesday that he is not opposed to the concept of allowing athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness, but he believes the devil is in the details.

“How do we create a system where we’re not uncomfortable, where we mitigate violations intentional and unintentional? That’s a challenge,” Smith said.

Some college sports leaders fear allowing athletes to earn outside income could open the door to corruption.

"One of the most distinctive things about college sports is this whole recruitment process," NCAA President Mark Emmert told the AP. "The whole notion of trying to maintain as fair a playing field as you can is really central to all this. And using sponsorship arrangements, in one way or another, as recruiting inducements is something everybody is deeply concerned about."

The shift came a month after California passed a law that would make it illegal for NCAA schools to prohibit college athletes from making money on endorsements, autograph signings and social media advertising, among other activities. California SB 206 goes into effect in 2023. More than a dozen states have followed with similar legislation, some of which could be on the books as soon as next year.

"This is another attempt by the NCAA at stalling on this issue," said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, an advocacy group. Huma said the association has posted model legislation on its website that it is encouraging "all states" to pass "to ensure their college athletes are afforded economic freedom and equal rights."

The NCAA has said California's law is unconstitutional, and any states that pass similar legislation could see their athletes and schools being declared ineligible to compete. But the board also said it hopes to reach a resolution with states without going to court.

"We would hope that all who are interested in the future welfare of student-athletes would work with us to get to that point and using reasonable processes to get there," Drake said.

In addition to pending state laws, North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Walker has proposed a national bill that would prohibit the NCAA and its member schools from restricting athletes from selling the rights to their NIL to third-party buyers on the open market.

"We're going to continue to communicate with legislators at the state and federal level," Emmert said.

In general, Smith thinks the action is the next logical step for the NCAA.

In the past five years, the NCAA has passed legislation allowing for unlimited meals for athletes; a “cost-of-attendance” stipend, which generally runs $2,000 to $4,000 annually for scholarship athletes in Power Five conferences; and travel stipends for athletes’ parents to attend postseason events such as bowl games.

“We need to constantly modernize what we do,” Smith said. “It took a long time to get cost of attendance in place. It was a battle to get stipends for parents … and unlimited meals.”

Players benefiting from their image, Smith added, is “the next step in my view, looking at a 21st century model. We needed to respond. So I’m glad we’re doing it. I just don’t know what it (will look like).”

OSU basketball coach Chris Holtmann agrees.

“Like most of my colleagues, I’m in favor," Holtmann said, while noting the unknowns like "how you make it work in terms of teaching your guys about filing taxes and all those things that are going to go along with it."

"There’s a lot that goes into it, but this is a good step.”

On of Holtmann's players, Florida State transfer CJ Walker, said: “It’s always been a topic of discussion, especially being at a big university like The Ohio State. Your jersey, your pictures are everywhere throughout campus and different advertisements,  so it’s something you always want to know about.”

Added the junior guard: “I feel like it’s a great opportunity for athletes throughout D-I, period."

Dispatch Reporters Rob Oller and Adam Jardy contributed to this story.

The NCAA Board of Governors took the first step Tuesday toward allowing amateur athletes to cash in on their fame, voting unanimously to permit them to "benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness."

The United States' largest governing body for college athletics realized that it "must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes," the board said in a news release issued after the vote at Emory University in Atlanta.

The NCAA and its member schools now must figure out how to allow athletes to profit while still maintaining rules regarding amateurism. The board asked each of the NCAA's three divisions to create the necessary new rules beginning immediately and have them in place no later than January 2021.

"The board is emphasizing that change must be consistent with the values of college sports and higher education and not turn student-athletes into employees of institutions," said board chair and Ohio State University president Michael V. Drake.

A group of NCAA administrators has been exploring since May the ways in which athletes could be allowed to receive compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses. The task force, led by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, presented a status report Tuesday to the Board of Governors, composed of university presidents.

The NCAA's shift came a month after California passed a law that would make it illegal for NCAA schools in the state to prohibit college athletes from making money on such activities as endorsements, autograph signings and social media advertising.

California's law goes into effect in 2023. More than a dozen states have followed with similar legislation; some are hoping to have laws in effect as soon as 2020.

The NCAA has said state laws that contradict the national governing body's rules could lead to athletes being declared ineligible or schools not being allowed to compete.

There is also a federal bill in the works, sponsored by North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, that could prevent the NCAA and its member schools from restricting its athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses to third-party buyers on the open market.