NCAA president calls new bill ‘major step’ for NIL


For the second time in the past week, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators proposed a federal law that would regulate how college athletes are allowed to make money and reshape the healthcare they are guaranteed to receive from schools.

Sens. Tommy Tuberville and Joe Manchin introduced the Pass Act of 2023 on Tuesday, calling it a year-long effort that they hope “strikes a balance between protecting the rights of student-athletes and maintaining the integrity of college sports.”

The bill is the first to be introduced this summer, but it joins other drafts of similar legislation shared by members of both the Senate and the House in recent months.

Federal lawmakers have proposed more than a dozen bills to reform college sports in the past three years, but thus far none has made it beyond the first step in the legislative process. Leaders from the NCAA, its most powerful conferences and many of its schools have traveled to Washington this summer to try to convince Congress to act. They say that the current lack of a nationwide standard has created a “race to the bottom” among state legislatures that are passing laws designed to try to give teams in their state a competitive advantage in recruiting.

Along with creating a national law for NIL deals, the Pass Act would also require schools to provide health coverage for sports-related injuries for eight years after athletes finish their college eligibility. Athletic departments that generate more than $20 million annually would also be required to cover out-of-pocket medical costs for two years after an athlete’s playing career. Athletic departments that generate more than $50 million annually would have to cover four years of out-of-pocket expenses.

The bill also seeks to create a certification process for agents that work with college athletes, a public database for anonymized NIL data, and a uniform contract for athletes to use in NIL deals. Those items have been on the wish list of NCAA president Charlie Baker since he took on his new position in March.

Baker has said he wants Congress to create “consumer protections” for athletes as part of a new law.

“This important legislation is a major step in the right direction to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes, includes key measures to increase consumer protections and transparency in the NIL market, and aims to protect women’s and Olympic sports,” Baker said in a statement provided by press aides for Manchin and Tuberville.

The bill would make it illegal for states to pass individual laws that allow college athletes to receive a direct share of the billions of dollars of revenue they help to generate. This past year, a state representative in California proposed a bill that would allow for revenue sharing on teams that produce a significant amount of money for their schools. The bill was paused this summer.

“[The Pass Act] represents another step forward on the pathway to securing the future of college athletics,” a joint statement from the Power 5 conferences said Tuesday. “The recent increase in activity from lawmakers demonstrates the growing consensus that federal NIL legislation is necessary and now is the time to act. We will continue working with members of Congress from both parties to develop a federal NIL standard in the coming weeks and months.”

The senators also suggest making it against federal law for a college athlete to transfer without sitting out a year until he or she has used at least three years of their college eligibility — except for extreme circumstances, such as the death of a family member. Coaches and athletic directors have complained during the past year that the combination of NIL money and a relatively new NCAA rule that allows players to transfer without penalty has made it difficult to maintain a steady roster.

“[W]e need to ensure the integrity of our higher education system, remain focused on education, and keep the playing field level,” said Tuberville, who coached football at Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Auburn prior to starting his political career.

Congress begins its month-long summer recess next week. With an election year on the horizon and multiple pending legal cases that could make college athletes into employees of their schools or conferences, college sports administrators believe the window for passing federal legislation to regulate how athletes make money may be closing quickly.

Those leaders are still lacking consensus on the best way to address what they view as the problems with the current college sports model.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, for example, said the NCAA needs “to be very careful” about “looking to Congress for answers to NIL and other questions” after reading a draft version of a bill introduced last week by three other senators — Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal and Jerry Moran — that provided for more prescriptive changes to some of the NCAA’s current operations.

“The current Blumenthal-Booker-Moran draft bill concerns me,” Aresco’s statement said. “Any such bill should be subject to great scrutiny. The establishment of a third party governing body overseeing college sports concerns me. WE should be controlling our affairs. Yes, we need some federal legislative or court protection, but WE need the ability to execute whatever reasonable plan that WE adopt.”

ESPN’s Heather Dinich contributed to this report.



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