As states have begun pushing for changes to the NCAA amateur athletic model, a new bill in Congress would trigger a federal review of the NCAA system.
The bipartisan legislation is being introduced by U.S. Reps. Donna Shalala and Ross Spano of Florida.
“We must address the extent to which higher education institutions, which are currently receiving over $130 billion in federal student support, are subsidizing athletic programs with little or no financial controls,” Shalala said in a Thursday statement announcing the bill.
“It is time for Congress to intercede in order to protect college athletes and the academic integrity of our institutions of higher education.”
Shalala is the former President of the University of Miami. She worked in the same role at Hunter College, and also served as Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The bill is titled the “Congressional Advisory Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics (CACIA) Act.” It would set up a 17-member panel to conduct a review of the NCAA including but not limited to its recruitment policies, health and safety protections and its compensation model.
“College sports, as overseen by the NCAA, have undergone a massive transformation in recent years,” Shalala added.
“As profits, compensation for coaches, and spending on luxurious athletic facilities have ballooned, the association has repeatedly failed to address systemic problems with respect to the health and well-being of student athletes. The demands of year-round training, sacrificing study time and sleep to clock more hours at the gym, and pushing through exhaustion have taken a toll athletes’ physical and mental health.”
The 17-member panel will be made up of fours member appointed by the House Speaker and four members appointed by the House Minority Leader.
Each of those groups will contain one House member and three individuals who are not members of Congress.
Another four member will be appointed by the Senate Majority Leader, with the Senate Minority Leader adding another four.
Again, each of those groups will have one Senate member and three non-Senate members.
The final member of the commission will be named by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
According to the measure, the appointees “shall be specially qualified to serve on the Commission by virtue of their education or experience on issues related to intercollegiate athletic programs, higher education, and civil rights.” Shalala, with her background leading multiple universities, could fit that bill.
Spano also issued a statement explaining his support for the legislation.
The body is tasked with submitting a report to Congress within two years of its first meeting. That report will include a summary of its findings and recommendations. The commission will then terminate within 30 days of issuing the report.
David Ridpath, President of The Drake Group, also added a statement in support of the bill. His organization has pushed back against the influence of college athletics within academic institutions.
“A Congressional commission is needed to examine the complicated relationship of higher education and intercollegiate athletics in the 21st century,” Ridpath said.
“It is our hope that this act will contribute to dramatically changing intercollegiate athletics to be more athlete and academic centric rather than simply about profits and winning.”
The bill would put $2 million toward the review in both the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.
The NCAA is potentially being forced into reform at the state level. California lawmakers recently approved a bill to allow athletes to profit off their likenesses.
Florida is now following that trend, with various bills by House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee and GOP state Rep. Chip LaMarca pushing to do the same. Gov. Ron DeSantis has also gotten behind those efforts.
In response to the legislation the NCAA announced they would alter their policy surrounding athletes’ ability to profit from the likeness. NCAA President Mark Emmert has also begun meeting with federal lawmakers to discuss other potential reforms.