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NCAA, Power Five Conferences Play Defense

by michelle
Published: Last Updated on

FILE – In this Feb. 11, 2020, file photo, a panel of witnesses, from left, Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, National Collegiate Athletic Association President Mark Emmert, University of Kansas Chancellor Dr. Douglas Girod, National College Players Association Executive Director Ramogi Huma and National Collegiate Athletic Association Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Chair Kendall Spencer, listen during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on intercollegiate athlete… Susan Walsh


Recap: This article discusses shift to Democratic control in both Congress and the White house and the repercussions for NIL legislation. In 2020, the NCAA and Power Five conferences were hopeful for federal legislation that would be in favor of the NCAA,  including limitations on athlete endorsements and antitrust protections. However, now that the federal government is more left leaning, any legislation that passes is likely to be more athlete-friendly, and potentially even extend beyond NIL to include health insurance and profit sharing for revenue generating sports. 

Observations: I imagine that the NCAA is upset that they dragged their feet for so long after California Governor Newsom passed the first state legislation regarding NIL in the fall of 2019. The new Democratically controlled Senate will not be as friendly to the NCAA and Power 5 Conferences. 

With states proposing and passing NIL bills right and left, and Florida’s set to go into effect on July 1, the need for intervention at the federal level is necessary to provide congruence and fairness across the country. 


Associated Press

The NCAA, the Power Five conferences and their $2 million platoon of lobbyists had a pretty good year on Capitol Hill in 2020. With Republicans controlling the Senate, the power brokers in college sports were on track to secure a way for athletes nationwide to earn money from endorsements while otherwise maintaining the status quo of amateurism.

Now that Democrats control Congress and the White House, 2021 is shaping up to be a much bigger challenge for those who don’t want major changes in college sports.

The bills now best positioned to advance would guarantee health care for college athletes and some form of revenue sharing, which critics describe as “pay for play.” Democrats pushing such legislation aren’t just motivated by giving athletes access to the free market through name, image and likeness (NIL) rights — a modest reform that has the full support of the NCAA and the Power Five.

Instead, some Democrats see college sports reform as a racial and economic justice issue and are seeking to correct a system they consider exploitative of minorities.

“I think the Power Five and NCAA proposals are dead in the water. They went to Congress and they lost,” said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association. “At this point, all they can do is play defense, which is what we were doing at first. Now we’re playing offense.”

That defensive posture for the Power Five comes after the conferences — the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 — collectively spent $1,730,000 to lobby Congress in 2020 — by far the most they have spent in a year, according to lobbying disclosures reviewed by The Associated Press.

The NCAA, despite calling off its lucrative basketball tournaments last March, spent $480,000 on lobbying, roughly in line with its budget in past years, for a total of $2,210,000 paid to lobbyists with similar aims.

Each Power Five conference hired its own lobbying firm and they collectively hired the same two firms — one Republican and one Democratic — as part of their push for a narrow bill giving athletes NIL rights, with numerous restrictions. The Southeastern Conference had the biggest lobbying budget of any league and even outspent the NCAA, paying its lobbyists $570,000.

The lobbyists got most of their wish list into a bill introduced last month by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., but with Wicker no longer the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, it’s unlikely his bill would advance if it were reintroduced in the new Congress.

“The body politic has shifted left, there’s no question about it, and that’s toward more student-athlete empowerment,” said Tom McMillen, a former Democratic congressman from Maryland who now represents Division I athletic directors as executive director of the LEAD1 Association.


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