Even if decades ‘too late,’ former UK stars support name, image, likeness rules change

·7 min read

For Kentucky fans who think in triplicate, the topic of name, image and likeness might evoke thoughts of Issel, Givens and Walker.

How might Dan Issel (UK’s career scoring leader), Jack Givens (hero of the 1978 national championship game) and Kenny Walker (the nickname “Sky” fit his lofty status) have profited as Kentucky players off their names, images and likenesses?

“I don’t know how much I would have made, but it would have been a whole lot more than I had,” Givens said with a chuckle. “That’s for sure.”

All three welcomed the growing expectation that the NCAA will soon recommend its member schools approve a change allowing college players to make money as commercial spokespersons, autograph signers and other ways that convert athletics fame into cash.

“Oh, you know I’m all for it,” Walker said. “There’s no question about that. It just happened about 35 or 40 years too late.”

Television rights, ticket sales, naming rights and other endeavors help generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Players do not share in the bonanza.

“I think they deserve something a little above the scholarship that they get,” Walker said. “And I’m not putting that down. That’s a lot. I don’t think people realize how important that is. With that being said, with the type of money that’s being made off these kids, it’s good to see them have opportunities to just make a little something.”

Givens suggested another potential benefit. Allowing players to profit off their names, images and likenesses might help college teams better compete with the NBA G League and overseas teams for players.

“I’m for anything that will keep guys in college longer, particularly the really good players,” Givens said. “Because it’s all about money. And the guys are trying their best to get to the next level. If (NIL) keeps guys around another year or two, and gives them the opportunity to make a little money for their families, their moms and dads who have put in so much time and money, if they can make a little bit, I’m very, very happy for them.”

The NCAA has been prodded into taking action. On Tuesday, Illinois became the latest state to approve athletes playing for colleges in its state be allowed to profit off name, image and likeness. NCAA president Mark Emmert told The New York Times that he would recommend schools approve players benefiting off name, image and likeness by July 1. Surely, not so coincidentally, that’s when at least five states will permit college athletes to make money in such ways.

Issel called for guidelines that cover all schools. Otherwise, schools in, say, California (one of the states set to allow NIL money making) will have an assumed recruiting advantage over Kentucky.

NIL in Kentucky

Not content to continue waiting for the NCAA to take action, State Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) introduced a bill in 2019 to allow athletes playing for Kentucky colleges to profit off their name, image and likeness. The bill did not pass.

But as other states pass similar laws while the NCAA — and the U.S. Congress — continue to dawdle about making NIL profits permissible coast to coast, McGarvey expects a bill to be filed again in the Kentucky Senate.

“I actually think that the bill will pass this year, particularly if it’s happening in other states,” he said before adding, “and it has the support of our universities.”

When asked why he supports athletes at Kentucky colleges profiting off NIL, McGarvey said, “There’s so much money in college sports right now. This represents one of the most fair ways to help the student-athletes get a little bit back. …

“Everybody thinks of the Anthony Davises and the John Walls when you talk about this legislation. I think this could open up a lot of opportunities for athletes across a number of sports.”

For example, he cited players on UK’s national championship volleyball team.

When asked if Kentucky, Louisville and other in-state colleges support a bill to make it lawful for athletes to profit off NIL, McGarvey said, “It’s no longer a theoretical issue. This is going to become law in certain states. So, whether they’re supportive or they dislike it, the universities are coming to the table to help us try to craft legislation that looks at what the other states have done and looks at what’s best for student-athletes in Kentucky.”

UK connection

State Senator Morgan McGarvey has a connection to UK basketball that extends beyond the issue of a college athlete profiting from his or her name, image and likeness.

He said his father, John McGarvey, was born in 1947 and raised in Cynthiana. The father’s first babysitter was future UK coach Joe B. Hall.

“He’s the only person to call my dad Johnny,” the state senator said of Hall.


Former Kentucky player Tyler Herro was featured in a five-minute video posted recently on The Players’ Tribune website. The subject of the video was about how Herro has taken up golf.

Golf instructor Sean Foley, who has worked with such pros as Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, gives Herro an introductory lesson.

Objective one: start small.

“I think it’s important to be good at making, like, small swings,” Foley tells Herro, “and being effective with it before you get to too much of a bigger swing.”

Herro’s first swing on the video is a whiff, which prompts an expletive.

“You guys don’t like not being good,” Foley observes.

Foley tries to brace Herro for how dealing with frustration is an inescapable byproduct of golf.

“This is going to be a love-hate relationship,” Foley tells Herro, “as it is for the best players in the world just because it’s so demanding and it’s so difficult.”

Herro became interested in golf while in the NBA “bubble” in Orlando. Being at the hotel pool and/or playing golf were the only ways a player had permission to leave his room, he says. He also notes how many NBA players play golf.

“When I retire, this is something I can still be competitive with,” Herro says.


One other note about State Sen. Morgan McGarvey. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism. He said his life’s path has prompted a well-rehearsed quip.

“They weren’t hated enough,” he said of journalists, “so I got into politics.”

Student and athlete

Kentucky player Brennan Canada achieved a 4.0 grade-point average while attending George Rogers Clark High School. During an interview session at the UK basketball camp in Olive Hill, he said he had maintained that standard in college.

An obvious question came to mind: given the time demands that come with playing basketball for Kentucky, how difficult is it to also post a 4.0 GPA?

“It’s tough, but it’s good,” Canada said. “It keeps you busy. Your time is used up. You don’t have a lot of free time.”

Canada tries to contribute on and off the court.

In practice, he tries to give players a competitive challenge.

He also spoke of trying to help teammates academically. He laughed when asked if that meant he served as an unofficial tutor.

“I don’t know about that …,” he said. This assistance can come in “helping guys get to class. Maybe freshmen who didn’t know where they were going on campus.”

Dietary distinction

The late Ben Jordan was on UK’s baseball and basketball teams in the 2019-20 school year.

During a youth camp UK staged in his hometown of Olive Hill on Monday, his pithy comparison of the programs was remembered.

UK’s baseball team ate at Chick-fil-A, Jordan was remembered saying. The basketball team ate at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse.

Happy birthday

To LaVon Williams. He turned 63 on Thursday. … To Chuck Hayes. He turned 38 on Friday. … To former Auburn guard Sharife Cooper. He turned 20 on Friday. … To Diana Taurasi. She turned 39 on Friday. … To Maya Moore. She turned 32 on Friday. … To Jemarl Baker. He turned 23 on Saturday. … To Mychal Mulder. He turned 27 on Saturday. … To former Vanderbilt and South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler. He turned 73 on Saturday. … To Gimel Martinez. He turns 50 on Monday. … To Tim Stephens. He turns 63 on Wednesday.

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