House of Representatives bill would regulate NCAA treatment of student athletes

Kobritzsmby Jordan Kobritz

Several members of the House of Representatives recently introduced a bill designed to regulate the NCAA in a number of respects.  Representatives Charles Dent (R-Pennsylvania) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) are the primary sponsors of the NCAA Accountability Act, designed to protect student-athletes from the heavy handed actions of the NCAA.

Among other things, the bill would require the NCAA to establish annual baseline concussion tests for athletes; mandate irrevocable four-year scholarships for athletes participating in contact/collision sports regardless of their skill or injury; prevent an institution from implementing a policy that prohibits paying stipends to college athletes; and guarantee that athletes have the opportunity for a formal administrative hearing along with other due process rights prior to being punished for violating NCAA rules.

Dent, a Penn State alum, has been a vocal critic of the NCAA since it imposed its unprecedented – not to mention unfair – penalty against his alma mater.  Beatty was a senior vice president at Ohio State when the NCAA sanctioned several players, football Coach Jim Tressel and the university in the aftermath of a tickets-for-tattoos scandal in 2011.  A cynic might suggest that both Dent and Beatty have ulterior motives in introducing their bill, and they wouldn’t be wrong.  Both legislators have an ax to grind against the NCAA.

But just because their motives may not be pure, that doesn’t mean their concerns are without merit.  It’s high time someone called the NCAA to task for abusing student-athletes and dereliction of duty for allowing institutions to engage in a never-ending arms race that has resulted in bigger, more lavish – and more expensive – facilities along with escalating coaches’ salaries.

This isn’t the first time the NCAA has been on the receiving end of Congressional action.  In the past two decades, Congress has held at least a dozen formal hearings that have produced eight written reports on the NCAA.  However, to date, no legislation has been passed that would regulate the NCAA or any of its activities.  Congress did pass the Sports Agent Responsibility and Trust Act (SPARTA) which was ostensibly designed to protect student-athletes.  The 2004 law contains provisions that regulate agent activity and requires student-athletes to notify their institutions if they sign a contract with an agent.

The NCAA was actively involved in the drafting and passage of SPARTA.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the main goal of the legislation is not to protect student-athletes but rather the NCAA eligibility of student-athletes, i.e., the institutions.  Although SPARTA provides for penalties up to $11,000 per day, no one has yet been prosecuted or fined under the law.

For its part, the NCAA was nonplussed by the introduction of the new bill.  When asked for a comment on the Dent-Beatty bill, NCAA spokesman Cameron Schuh wrote in a statement, “Our member-created rules and processes are in place to provide a fair competition environment and protect the safety and wellbeing of student-athletes, a responsibility we take very seriously.”  To which we can add, about as seriously as the governing body takes the bill.  And for good reason.

While the goals of the Dent-Beatty bill are by and large laudable, the legislation is virtually unenforceable, assuming, of course, that the bill is enacted into law.  The odds of that happening are minuscule, at best.  According to GovTrack, a non-profit institution that tracks the activities of Congress, the bill has a seven percent chance of making it out of Committee and only a one percent chance of ever being enacted.  In other words, Dent and Beatty are playing to their respective constituencies, rather than looking out for the best interests of student-athletes.

The Dent-Beatty bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.  The Congressmen have enlisted six co-sponsors to date and will be trolling for more, along with a sponsor in the Senate, when Congress returns from its August recess.  While a public hearing is a possibility –a little face time before the national media doesn’t hurt those reelection chances – don’t expect the bill to accomplish any more than its predecessors have.

Despite a plethora of recent missteps that have embarrassed the NCAA and revealed to the world how inept the governing body really is, it has nothing to fear from Congress.

Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner.  He is a Professor and Chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and is a contributing author to the Business of Sports Network and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com  Jordan can be reached at jordan.kobritz@cortland.edu.

© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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