On Wednesday afternoon, the Power 5 issued a statement reading in part: “Only Congress can pass a national solution for student-athlete NIL rights. The patchwork of state laws that begins on July 1 will disadvantage student-athletes in some states and create an unworkable system for others. As leaders in college athletics, we support extending NIL rights in a way that supports the educational opportunities of all student-athletes, including collegians in Olympic sports who comprised 80% of Team USA at the Rio games. We continue to work with Congress to develop a solution for NIL and expand opportunities.”
Several congressional aides told ESPN last month that it was very unlikely that Congress will pass any type of college sports legislation before July. The debate appeared to be no closer to the finish line during Wednesday’s hearing.
During the hearing, Emmert declined to reveal whether the organization would file injunctions against states to delay their implementation of NIL law, saying the organization has taken no position but it has been “widely discussed.” Emmert acknowledged that it would be “very challenging” for a school to file suit against its state.
Meanwhile, the NCAA is expected to pass its own legislation by the month’s end, Emmert says, after the Supreme Court rules in the Alston case. The NCAA’s legislation will differ from state laws and it could trigger a wave of litigation—two reasons that the organization is encouraging Congress to create a uniform standard.
That’s where the five-member Senate working group comes in. Cantwell, Booker, Blumenthal, Wicker and Blackburn are attempting to find a middle ground between two noteworthy and diametrically opposing college athlete bills already introduced in Congress: (1) Booker and Blumenthal’s College Athletes Bill of Rights, a somewhat radical and sweeping legislation that includes revenue sharing, long-term medical care, lifetime scholarships and unrestricted endorsements; and (2) Wicker’s narrow bill focused only on NIL and featuring NCAA protections and athlete restrictions.
A compromise bill would be more broad than Wicker’s but not quite as expansive as Booker and Blumenthal’s, all while providing athletes with enough freedoms to satisfy both sides.
So how close are the five lawmakers to agreeing on a proposal?
Now there’s a question.
The hearings on Capitol Hill related to this issue aren’t over. Cantwell suggested that there will be more and that the next hearing’s witness list will include current college athletes—a key group that’s been missing from these discussions.
To summarize, the NCAA is paralyzed until it finds out if the Supreme Court is going to give it an antitrust exemption and Congress isn’t anywhere near being able to reach a consensus by month’s end. Business as usual, in other words.