Mark Emmert’s bold move with the Penn State sanctions has drawn a predictable reaction.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is facing mounting legal challenges and criticism over missteps in its enforcement process, may soon have to fend off another threat: federal legislation.
Rep. Charlie W. Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania who criticized the association’s punishment of Pennsylvania State University during the Jerry Sandusky scandal, is considering introducing a bill that would seek to make the NCAA more transparent and provide due-process protections to players and coaches.
The bill may also attempt to establish a new oversight mechanism for the association’s judicial process.
The measure, which still must pass legal muster, is expected to include language taking aim at perceived problems in the NCAA’s enforcement and infractions processes.
Aides on Mr. Dent’s staff said they were looking to ensure that NCAA athletes, coaches, and institutions received more consistent treatment when they violated the association’s rules.
Inevitable. Predictable. Workable? John Infante suggests the NCAA ought to grasp this situation as an opportunity to get relief from its biggest current threat.
So if the NCAA is not in a position to fight, the best move is to play ball with Congress. Rep. Dent and any other supporters want to remake the NCAA’s enforcement process. The NCAA already has to do that. The association might as well get involved as early as possible to craft federal oversight into something the NCAA and its members can live with.
But more importantly, this is an opportunity for the NCAA to get out of the O’Bannon case without long-term damage. In exchange for submitting to greater federal regulation and beefing up due process for athletes, coaches, and institutions, the NCAA could ask for an antitrust exemption that is much clearer and stronger than the one they enjoy from the Board of Regents case. The NCAA might have to give some additional ground, like full cost-of-attendance scholarships, looser rules on athletes’ relationships with agents, and maybe some sort of limited outside income model. It would be like negotiating a settlement in the O’Bannon case, but without those pesky plaintiffs.
That exemption is the NCAA’s holy grail. No telling how much enforcement ground it would be willing to cede to get that, or how much of a “clearer and stronger” one would be offered. I feel pretty sure about one thing, though. The only thing worse than the NCAA we have now would be an NCAA with government backing.