Dan Murphy, ESPN Staff Writer July 20, 2023, 7AM ET
CloseCovering the Top TenJoined ESPN.com in 2014Graduated from University of Notre Dame
A bipartisan trio of US senators handed out a bill Thursday morning that aims to create a uniform national law on how college athletes can make money and encourage schools to provide more health care benefits to athletes.
The draft is one of at least three potential bills that have been tabled on Capitol Hill this summer as the NCAA and collegiate sports leaders continue to ask Congress to help regulate how athletes can monetize their names, images, and likenesses. This proposal – co-authored by Sens. Cory Booker, Jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal – going beyond NIL regulations by suggesting that NCAA schools should be required to be more transparent about their finances and set aside funds for post-career medical expenses and guaranteed long-term scholarships for athletes.
“It will make college athletics fairer, safer, and fairer, and empower more young people to succeed in sports and beyond,” Booker said in a statement.
Federal lawmakers have proposed more than a dozen pieces of legislation to reform collegiate sports in the last three years, but so far none have gone beyond the first step in the legislative process. Leaders from the NCAA, its most powerful conference, 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 national standards has created a “race to the bottom” among state legislatures passing laws designed to try to give teams in their states a competitive advantage in recruiting.
“Congress action is the only way to provide a uniform national standard for name, image, and likeness activity and to draw a line around the boundaries of what is not simply a paid game,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said earlier this week.
Leaders like Sankey have said they want legislation that creates uniform NIL rules, provides for narrow antitrust exemptions to protect schools from some types of litigation and states that college athletes should not be considered employees of their schools.
This latest draft does not include any antitrust exceptions, nor does it consider the employee status of athletes — an issue currently being debated in various legal venues. It stopped short of some of the more aggressive economic reforms that were opposed by NCAA leaders and Democrats have pushed for NCAA-related legislation before. The proposed bill also does not address revenue sharing with athletes, an item Booker and Blumenthal included in previous bill proposals in 2020.
This time, senators are proposing the creation of a non-government corporation with powers to resolve NIL disputes, certify agents, and enforce other reforms, which include:
Healthcare: Create a medical trust fund for sports-related injuries. Athletic departments that generate at least $20 million annually will be required to cover the medical costs of athletes for two years after they finish playing. Athletic departments that generate at least $50 million annually must do so for four years and provide athletic-related health care coverage while athletes play.
Draft eligibility: All collegiate athletes can draft for professional leagues without losing their NCAA eligibility if they decide to return to school within seven days of the end of the draft.
Scholarship guarantee: Colleges must guarantee that athletes will retain their scholarships until they complete their undergraduate degree as long as they remain in good academic standing and do not transfer.
Education: Schools cannot prevent athletes from choosing certain academic majors. They will also be required to provide athletes with at least 15 hours per year of financial literacy and life skills training that can count as college credit.
Transparency: Schools will be required to report annually on their athletic income and expenses, how much money their coaches make, how much time athletes spend on their sports, academic results, and grade point average and total number of endorsement contracts athletes sign. The bill will ensure that specific contract details for endorsement deals are not made public or subject to requests for public records.
The new corporation, dubbed the College Athletic Corporation, will work with existing associations such as the NCAA to oversee certain areas of college sports. This group will be given subpoena powers to monitor whether all parties comply with the framework set out in the proposed law.