Sep 15, 2020
Compensating Student Athletes Senate Hearing Transcript September 15
The Senate held a hearing on college student athlete compensation on September 15. Read the transcript of the full hearing below.
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Senator Alexander: (00:00)
… in what we’re talking about. Last year, there were about 20 million undergraduates in about 6,000 colleges and universities in the United States. Nearly 1100 of those 6,000 colleges and universities are members of the NCAA. More than 460,000 young men and women participate in 24 different sports each year in about one quarter of one million contests. About 300 of those institutions play football and basketball at the highest level. Fewer than 2% of student athletes will go on to play professional sports, according to the NCAA. So this means we’re talking about approximately 9,000 college student athletes who compete in a few sports out of more than 460,000 college athletes across 24 sports.
Senator Alexander: (00:53)
So the current controversy is primarily about an even smaller number, a small percentage of those 9, 000 students who play football, baseball, or men’s or women’s basketball, and whose skills or the institutions for which they play make them attractive targets for recruiting offers that will combine their scholarship dollars with endorsement money. For example, an exceptional quarterback, pitcher, or running back might be offered a half million dollars a year by a car dealership in the same town as a college with a big time football, baseball, or basketball program.
Senator Alexander: (01:36)
Now, as the Knight Commission said, student athletes are already paid in the most meaningful way with a free education. Athletic scholarships are limited to tuitions and fees, room and board, and required course related books. But this can add up to a lot of money. The University of Tennessee estimates it spends about $115,000 a year per student athlete, including room and board, student stipends, academic support, meals, sports medicine, training, travel, and equipment. Student athletes may also combine other sources of financial aid, including federal or state need-based aid to help cover the full cost of attendance. These include Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, work study, state grants based on need using federal need calculations such as Tennessee’s HOPE Scholarship, or veterans programs such as the GI Bill or post-9/11 GI Bill. About 92,000 or 20% of the student athletes receive Pell Grants, which can be up to $6,200 more. According to the College Board, the value of a lifetime degree is $1 million over an individual’s lifetime. And 88% of the NCAA’s student athletes graduate, earn a degree.
Senator Alexander: (02:59)
Now to the question at hand, should Congress act or should varying state laws govern the payments for name, image, and likeness to student athletes? Is a patchwork set of regulations worth the confusion it will cause with unrestrained boosters, creative agents, the impact of Title IX on men and women’s programs, on a coach’s effort, and most of all, on the tradition of the intercollegiate student athlete? Solving that question will be the job of the Commerce Committee, but we can inform their decision with today’s testimony and senators’ comments. Based on my experience as a student athlete, my time as a university president, and my membership on the Knight Commission, let me offer these suggestions. One, the Knight Commission was correct to say that student athletes should not be on the payroll and shouldn’t be treated as hired hands. Two, Congress should act, but in a limited way as possible to authorize an independent entity safe from litigation to write rules governing payments for the use of names, image, and likeness. Congress, imagine all 535 of us doing this, should provide aggressive oversight of that entity rather than try to write those rules.
Senator Alexander: (04:19)
Three, that governing entity should be the NCAA. I know, I know the NCAA is controversial. So will every entity or any entity that tries to write rules for intercollegiate student athletes. If the NCAA is not doing a good job, the presidents of the universities who are in charge of it ought to reform it, giving the job to some existing entities, such as the Federal Trade Commission, which does not have any expertise or any sense of responsibility for higher education, makes no sense. Giving the job to a new entity would take forever.
Senator Alexander: (04:57)
Now as to rules which the NCAA should write, here’s what I believe should be the overriding principle. Money paid to student athletes for the use of their name, image, and likeness should benefit all student athletes at that institution. Following this principle would allow the earnings to be used for additional academic support, further study or degrees, more health insurance options, more support for injured players, and other needs. It would avoid the awkwardness of a center, who earns nothing, snapping the ball to a quarterback who earns a half million dollars for promoting the local auto dealer. It avoids the inevitable abuse that would occur with agents and boosters becoming involved with outstanding high school athletes. It would avoid the unexpected consequences to other teams at an institution because of the impact of Title IX or the impact on existing student aid athletes.
Senator Alexander: (05:56)
Such a principle as I am suggesting preserves the right of any athlete to earn money for the use of his or her name, image, or likeness. It simply says if you elect to be a student athlete, your earnings should benefit all student athletes at your institutions. If you want to keep the money and be someone’s employees, then go join a professional team. This system would create the same kind of choices that today’s NCAA rules for college baseball require. A high school student must stay three years if he chooses to participate in a college baseball program.
Senator Alexander: (06:37)
Senator Kaine and I were talking before the hearing about Virginia and Vanderbilt’s baseball program. Take Vanderbilt for example. David Price, Sonny Gray, and Dansby Swanson, familiar names to Major League Baseball fans, all very successful professional athletes now, all were drafted by Major League Baseball teams while they were in high school. They could have earned a lot of money going directly into professional baseball. Instead, they chose a Vanderbilt education, three years of college experience, and the opportunity to be taught by Coach Tim Corbin. If Price, Gray, and Swanson had been permitted to sell their name, image, and likeness while at Vanderbilt under the principal I’m suggesting, their earnings would have been used for the benefit of all of Vanderbilt’s sports teams, men and women.
Senator Alexander: (07:28)
Applying such a principle to all intercollegiate athletics might cause a few talented athletes to join professional leagues immediately after high school. That is their right. But if that young athlete prefers the college experience, the expert coaching and teaching, the free education, other academic support, and the additional $1 million in their lifetime that comes with earning a college degree, then their earnings should benefit all the students at their institution. And while the NCAA is making new rules, it ought to assign most of the new TV revenues to institutions for use in academic support for student athletes rather than continue to encourage inordinately high salaries for some coaches.
Senator Alexander: (08:14)
I do not see a good ending to allowing a few student athletes to be paid by commercial interests while most of their teammates are not. If young athletes want to be a part of a team, enjoy the undergraduate experience, learn from coaches who are among the best teachers in the country, and be paid a full scholarship that helps them earn a million dollars during their lifetime, then all the student athletes at their institution should benefit. If that student athlete wants to keep the money for himself or herself, that student athlete should become a professional. I’ll now recognize Senator Murray for her opening statement.
Senator Murray: (08:56)
Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to all of our witnesses for joining us for this hearing today. Before I speak on the hearing, Mr. Chairman, I wanted to mention a few things. And first of all, I just wanted to say I’ve been in very close contact with local leaders on the ground as families in my home state of Washington and the west coast are dealing with devastating fires that are wiping out communities and damaging air quality dramatically. And I just want to publicly thank the many courageous first responders and firefighters who are risking their lives to save our families and communities and let them all know I am committed to doing everything I can to make sure that local fire departments and officials and communities have everything they need to fight these fires and begin this long road to recovery. So thank you for allowing me to say that.
Senator Murray: (09:50)
And secondly, Mr. Chairman, I want to take a moment to just acknowledge your many decades of leadership on a vast number of issues, including on today’s topic, which I know you’ve always been focused on. Throughout our time in the Senate, in our six years running this committee together, you’ve often helped the committee and its members in leading us in very important discussions on critical issues facing families across this country. And I know I speak for all the members when I thank you for the manner in which you have partnered with me to run this committee as we look into issues like name, image, likeness, and so many others. It is easy, especially now, to just go into our respective corners and not have a discussion about big problems that our country’s facing. And it demonstrates really your commitment to this institution and the importance of dialogue that even now you are facilitating bipartisan discussions on topics like this. This committee benefits enormously from your experiences as a governor, as president of the University of Tennessee, and education secretary.
Senator Murray: (10:59)
And I know January is a ways off, but I want to start off by thanking you for all of your great work on this committee and in the Senate. Mr. Chairman, I have to say our work together really means a lot to me because while we do have different backgrounds and different perspectives and different styles, you and I and the great members of this committee share a commitment to getting things done for families and communities we represent and for our country. We both want to continue the important role this committee and the Senate play, and we truly will miss you helping drive discussions like the one we’re having today. Again and again over the years, you’ve come to work looking to solve problems, not score political points. So I know I speak for all committee members on both sides of the aisle when I say you will be greatly missed. There’s no better proof of your determination to work in a bipartisan way and do whatever it takes to find common ground in the countless bills that we worked on together. And this committee was successful in passing from the 21st Century Cures Act to the Every Student Succeeds Act to Perkins CTE, as well as a number of bills to address the opioid epidemic. These laws didn’t just tackle big issues, they managed to get broad bipartisan support from all of our colleagues. And millions of families for years to come will benefit from your work. So thank you.
Senator Murray: (12:27)
Now today, I’m glad to have the opportunity to talk about college athletes, which I know is personal to you as a former track and field star. And Mr. Chairman, as you and I have talked about before, the issue of compensating college athletes is something you’ve long been focused on. And I’m glad we’re having this conversation today. I also want to thank Senator Murphy for pushing us to have this discussion today, and to colleagues who are off this committee, like Senator Booker, for their work and leadership on this issue.
Senator Murray: (12:57)
This summer, our nation finally began to reckon with police brutality and the pervasiveness of systemic racism in our country, a reality which so many have lived with their entire life. One of the many issues we are over to overdue to address is the exploitation of college athletes, which has profound racial and economic justice implications. For too long, the $15 billion college sports industry has been a glaring example of economic and racial inequity, one where the majority of athletes in Division I revenue generating sports are Black. And mostly white coaches and NCAA officials make millions off the labor of young college athletes. Despite the fact that college athletes bring in millions of dollars for colleges each year and stimulates local economies across the country, they are prohibited from receiving a penny in compensation.
Senator Murray: (13:58)
Now I know there are people who say a “free education is a privilege” or compensating athletes will hinder their education or paying college athletes will be the end of college sports as we know it. But the stories I have heard from many young athletes back in my home state of Washington about the inequity and abuse they’ve experienced show how our current system exploits young athletes, particularly young athletes of color. And it has to be reformed.
Senator Murray: (14:28)
I heard from a former all star Black college athlete in Washington state, who before he went pro, said he had to steal food from the cafeteria and grocery stores because he was not allowed to work and he couldn’t afford food. That’s a tough thing for someone to share, but he wanted everyone to know just how difficult it can get for so many athletes. There are countless stories of college athletes who had their futures thrown into jeopardy because they got injured and were not guaranteed long term affordable health care. And in some instances, they might lose their scholarship and their chance at an education. College athletes are struggling to manage their academic course loads and grueling daily schedules filled with workouts, practices, and games while also facing food and economic insecurity. While the NCAA and member schools enter into billion dollar media deals, universities invest in luxury facilities, coaches receive million dollar salaries, and more. That’s immoral, we should not accept that.
Senator Murray: (15:36)
So I urge all my colleagues in the Senate to listen to the experiences of college athletes, particularly college athletes of color, in their home states. Because once you do, it’s impossible to deny that change is needed. There are a lot of ways Congress and other committees connect to protect college athletes’ rights. And I want to talk about a few of them. First and foremost, we need to make sure that college athletes are fairly compensated. And an important first step towards that issue is allowing athletes to profit from the use of their name and image and likeness, or NIL. And we have to ensure that all athletes, men and women, get their fair share of the revenue that they have to generate.
Senator Murray: (16:21)
But fair compensation is just one part of protecting the rights of college athletes. Especially now, as the COVID pandemic rages on, it’s crucial that we establish enforceable health and safety standards. If an athlete gets injured while playing for their college, they should not be expected to deal with the medical or financial fallout on their own. We have to make sure that college athletes are guaranteed affordable healthcare. And that colleges take responsibility for lifelong health issues related to an injury. And we absolutely need to give college athletes the quality educational opportunities and support they deserve. Too many college athletes are being funneled into easy classes, sometimes even fake ones, simply don’t have the time to complete their coursework due to rigorous practice schedules, or aren’t finishing their degree. And for Black athletes, graduation rates are significantly lower than white athletes. Just 55% of Black male athletes from the Power Five conferences graduate within six years compared to 70% of all college athletes. That’s wrong, and it is unacceptable. All college athletes should receive the academic support they need to complete a quality education and assurances that their scholarships will not be revoked if they’re injured.
Senator Murray: (17:46)
It’s clear the status quo isn’t working. It only serves those at the top. The NCAA should have addressed these issues long ago, but failed to do it. So Congress must face these challenges head on and offer college athletes solutions that end this current system of exploitation and replace it with a system which values college athletes’ voices. So thank you again, Mr. Chairman, as well as to each of our witnesses who we will hear from shortly. Before I close, I just want to say, in addition to these injustices right now, college athletes and their peers are also dealing with a pandemic that has brought enormous uncertainty to higher education. For students and everyone suffering through this pandemic, I just want to note we cannot wait for weeks or months for another relief package. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of it. So I hope in the days to come, we can finally get started on a serious negotiation to reach an agreement that meets the dire needs we’re hearing from our families and the communities we serve. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Alexander: (18:53)
Thank you, Senator Murray. And thanks for your generous comments at the beginning. I think everyone on this committee knows that we wouldn’t have had the success we’ve had as a committee of very disparate views over the last several years if I hadn’t been working with a Democratic ranking member who used to be a kindergarten teacher and who learned as well as taught how to work well together. So I’ll have more to say about that at a future hearing, but I deeply appreciate those comments and the way we’ve had a chance to work together, including today’s hearing. I want to acknowledge the efforts of Senator Murphy, who is here, senator Romney, Senator Burr, all of whom are among Senators who’ve had a real interest in this subject, which has been considered by several committees. I’m pleased to welcome our witnesses today to the hearing focusing on intercollegiate athletics. Senator Baldwin will introduce our first witness. Senator Baldwin.
Senator Baldwin: (19:51)
Thank you. I’m pleased to introduce Dr. Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dr. Blank has served as chancellor since 2013. Previously, she served as deputy secretary and acting secretary of commerce under President Obama. She was also a member of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Clinton. She has served as Dean and professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan. She was a faculty member at Northwestern and Princeton Universities, and a fellow at the Brookings Institution. The University of Wisconsin is a member of the Big 10, one of the Power Five conferences. With 23 varsity sports and approximately 800 participating students each year, Chancellor Blank was recently appointed to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors. I look forward to hearing her insights today as part of today’s important discussion about college athletics and compensation. Welcome, Chancellor Blank and on Wisconsin!
Senator Alexander: (21:06)
Thank you [crosstalk 00:21:08]. Our second witness is Karen Dennis. She served as director of track and field and cross country at the Ohio State University for the past six years. She has been named Big 10 Coach of the Year four times and was inducted to the Coaches Hall of Fame of the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in 2018. Sharing both a Bachelor’s degree in public affairs and a Master’s degree in physical education from Michigan State University. Senator Romney will introduce our next witness.
Senator Romney: (21:41)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have the honor to introduce John Hartwell, who is vice president and athletic director at Utah State University. As a former student athlete himself, he played basketball for the Citadel. For more than five years, he has been the director of athletics at Utah State, and he has ensured that his students have success both in the classroom and on the playing field. Under his leadership, the Utah State Aggies have achieved a 54-15 record in men’s basketball. Overall, Utah State University has claimed five Mountain West regular season championships and four post-season titles during his tenure. Just as impressive is Utah State’s student athlete success in the classroom with a 93% graduation rate and a cumulative 3.36 grade point average, the highest in school history. Utah State University is a Division IA institution with 16 varsity teams. It offers 168 undergraduate degrees and 143 graduate degrees. And it educates 28,000 students. One of them, by the way, is my grandson. Today we examine the potential impacts of the NCAA’s decision to allow student athletes to be compensated for their name, image, and likeness. As a former student athlete, as a certified public accountant, as a athletic director at Utah State University, John brings an informed and firsthand perspective which I look forward to hearing. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Alexander: (23:25)
Thank you, Senator Romney. And our fourth and final witness is Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association. Mr. Huma played college football at UCLA, where he became an advocate for student athletes rights. He and his work has been featured on numerous news programs. He’s often quoted on ESPN and CBS Sports promoting athletic or athlete compensation. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and a Master of public health at UCLA. We’ll now begin hearing from our witnesses. Chancellor Blank, let’s start with you. Welcome.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (24:05)
Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me today. And thank you, Senator Baldwin, for that very kind introduction. I’m going to testify about the Collegiate Model of Athletics and some of the potential reforms around student athletes’ ability to earn income from name, image, and likeness. The University of Wisconsin at Madison is the flagship university of our state, and we provide a world class education to our students. I’m proud to be a chancellor. We’re here today to discuss collegiate student athletes. I believe deeply in the student athlete role with an emphasis on student first. It is the right role for those who play sports in college. Only a small percentage of student athletes compete after college, 3% at UW go on to play professionally. So we need to prepare our athletes for careers off the field. The University of Wisconsin has a strong program with student athletes who perform well, both in the classroom and in their sport.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (25:05)
Our student athletes not only compete for Big 10 and national titles, but they are also strong students. More than 350 have been named to the Dean’s list each year. Last year, our student athletes majored in 84 different areas of study. And the multi-year graduation rate for our student athletes is 90%. For all Division I athletes, it’s 88%. Like other universities, we provide broad support for our student athletes. Their scholarships cover the full cost of attendance, including tuition, books, fees, housing, and other expenses. But that’s just the beginning of the support they receive. They receive laptops, tutoring, and access to dedicated academic advisors. They have access to mentoring and world-class coaching, mental health counseling, sports psychologists, state of the art healthcare, including care that covers anything for at least two years after they leave the university. They have access to unlimited meals and snacks. They receive nutrition advice and career counseling. And we pay for degree completion at any school in the country for those who leave for professional sports but want to complete their degree later.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (26:12)
All of those benefits, however, are dwarfed by what they receive from their college education. I’m an economist by training and I know the extensive literature on the returns to a college education. College graduates earn a million dollars more than those with only a high school degree over their lifetime. The return to the college degree is by far the greatest benefit our student athletes receive. The business model for college athletics is greatly misunderstood by the public. We aren’t sponsoring college sports because of its potential to make money. At the University of Wisconsin, only football and men’s basketball are revenue generating sports. Our other 21 sports cost more money than they generate. But the value of our academic program is the broad opportunities it provides for students with many skills to compete. If we had to spend all of our revenue in only our two revenue producing sports, I’m not sure we’d choose to run an athletic program at UW.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (27:09)
In recent years, there’s been a lively discussion about allowing students to generate income from name, image, and likeness, or NIL. Other students have this opportunity and I support finding ways for student athletes to do so as well. I’d like to discuss the parameters, however, of what that should look like. While we need congressional help, any legislation should improve the situation for students, not make it worse. The NCAA, the Big 10, and the A five have endorsed a set of principles we hope you will consider. These include, one, we need Congress to pass federal legislation and need it before July of 2021 when the first state law goes into effect. We cannot function under a hodgepodge of state laws now being passed that will make it difficult for a level playing field for recruitment or competition.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (27:58)
Two, federal legislation must include a preemption over those state laws already enacted. And in addition, we need a very narrowly tailored antitrust exemption. Three, we must protect college recruiting. Student athletes should have new avenues to pursue payment from third parties for name, image, and likeness. But those should be totally outside the recruiting process. Four, we must avoid pay for play. Our student athletes are not professional athletes and they should not be paid to participate in sports. And last, student athletes are not university employees. Their first priority is to be students working towards a college degree. The NCAA’s Division I board of directors is developing new NIL rules for student athletes, which will come to the board for consideration later this year. I value the role of Congress in constructing a national framework on NIL and giving us the tools we need to make it work. You should not wait on the NCAA process. And I hope once you agree on a national NIL standard, you will provide us with the narrow legal protection needed for us to implement your decision. Thank you very much.
Senator Alexander: (29:06)
Thank you. Ms. Karen Dennis, welcome.
Karen Dennis: (29:19)
Thank you, Chairman Alexander. And just quickly, I’d like say your ten, one performance in 1960 would still be pretty good 60 years later. Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. As one who’s been engaged in sports over the past six decades as an athlete, coach, and now one of only 3% of women in the country to preside as director of a dual gender track and field program, I’m honored to be with you today to provide some insights.
Karen Dennis: (29:52)
My parents were both college educated. My mother was a school teacher, my father a City of Detroit employee. My father was an outstanding high jumper and sprinter who competed against and with the great Jesse Owens, a renowned Buckeye. I graduated Michigan State with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. I was the first woman at Michigan State in track and field to receive an athletic grant and aid, a whopping $300. I was the head coach of Michigan State, UNLB, and the 2000 US Women’s Track and Field Olympic team. Currently, I’m in my sixth season as director of track and field and cross country at the Ohio State University. Ohio State’s Department of Athletics offers 36 intercollegiate sports. 17 women’s, 16 men’s, and three co-ed. And approximately 1000 student athletes. Only two programs, football and men’s basketball, actually generate a profit. Revenue sharing from these programs is what makes it possible for programs like mine to exist.
Karen Dennis: (30:57)
Ohio State’s athletic department is one of approximately 20 nationwide. It’s self-sustaining and receives no university funds, tax dollars, or student fees. I’ve been fortunate to have witnessed and been a benefactor to the many changes in collegiate sports over the past several decades. Throughout each period in change of governance, the student athlete experience has been significantly enhanced. As states began to enact laws governing student athlete compensation, I’d like to offer some insights on the impact pay to play and name, image, likeness, NIL, could have on our students and university sport teams.
Karen Dennis: (31:39)
I’m a strong supporter of the amateurism model of collegiate athletics. Paying players to play, in essence, making them employees of their universities, would have serious negative consequences on college sports and the student athlete. I fear once enrolled, student athletes would prioritize athletic performance to the detriment of their academics and athletics. The cost of funding pay to play at best would result in smaller squad sizes, thereby eliminating competitive opportunities for many students. At worst, it would force many athletic departments to completely eliminate non-revenue generating sports such as track and field. I also support the NCAA’s efforts to allow name, image, and likeness opportunities for student athletes consistent within the collegiate athlete model. I believe it will serve a broader base of students while embracing the successful NCAA amateur sports structure. Given the opportunity to brand themselves while in college with technical, intellectual, tangible, and legal resources at their disposal, a greater number of student athletes will leave school better prepared for life and global citizenship. However, certain guardrails in education programs must be put into place to appropriately support the student athlete. With newfound NIL revenue comes new-
Karen Dennis: (33:03)
… With newfound NIL revenue, comes new and probably unexpected tax liabilities and unexpected financial implications that could affect an athlete’s ability for some student aid programs, such as Pell. Social media opportunities must be properly vetted by both the student athlete and the institution, with appropriate privacy protections put into place. At Ohio State, we place great emphasis on life after sport, through the Eugene D. Smith Leadership Institute, which provides leadership, character, and career development opportunities to all student athletes in order to best prepare them for life after graduation.
Karen Dennis: (33:43)
There are serious benefits, as well as concerns, for a student athlete as compensation opportunities become reality. Policy makers should be encouraged to continue to hear multiple viewpoints to ensure that the appropriate structures support student athletes and protects the amateurism model, which has been so important to the collegiate experience of millions of athletes. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
Senator Alexander: (34:13)
Thank you, Ms. Dennis for being here today. Mr. Hartwell, welcome.
John Hartwell: (34:21)
Thank you. Chairman Alexander and ranking member Murray, and distinguished members of the committee. Thank you so much for inviting me to testify on this important topic today. Collegiate Athletics have played a huge part in my life. Education, experiences, relationships, and life lessons learned over four years as a student athlete at the Citadel many years ago, have been invaluable to me over the last 37 years. The most rewarding aspect of my job is being able to facilitate and provide life-changing opportunities through collegiate athletics to others, just as I was fortunate to be given many years ago. My primary responsibility as the director of athletics is to provide the tools and resources necessary for our student athletes to be successful in the classroom and on the fields of play. As Senator Romney so graciously pointed out, at Utah State we are winning in the classroom and on the fields of play.
John Hartwell: (35:21)
In addition to the championships won and the high grade point averages and graduation success rates, we have also finished in the top 25 in the country over the last five years in the sports of football, men’s basketball, men’s cross country, and men’s track and field. In addition, in the 2020 NFL draft, quarterback Jordan Love was the only non autonomous power five conference student athletes selected. So there are a lot of things going well here at Utah State University.
John Hartwell: (35:57)
I want to talk a little bit about the financial of college athletics, and I’ll throw back on my CPA hat from many years ago to talk a little about that. Operating budgets for FBS institutions, the highest level of football playing institutions, which there are 130, range from roughly $16 million to over $230 million in annual budgets. Here at Utah State, our budget is around $36 million, and of that $36 million, 13 million in revenues are generated through football and men’s basketball. Conversely for expenditures, we spend about 11 and a half million dollars annually on football and men’s basketball expenditures.
John Hartwell: (36:44)
One important consideration in the collegiate athletics funding model is Title IX. Revenues from football and men’s basketball help fund scholarships in many sports, including for female student athletes, which are required by Title IX compliance. To me, the greatest victory a student athlete can achieve during their collegiate experience is when they walk across the stage to get a degree. Once earned, that degree can never be taken away. And as you’ve heard from other witnesses, that degree can often lead to financial success in your life going forward, regardless of the field of competition they go into.
John Hartwell: (37:29)
On the flip side, an athletic career can be taken away whether by illness or injury in the flash of an eye. So the importance of getting that degree is so, so important. College athletics provides outstanding educational opportunities for student athletes, many of whom would not be able to afford these educational opportunities without athletic scholarships. The evolving needs of student athletes have been addressed in recent years with additional benefits being allowed by NCAA bylaws to include cost of attendance stipends, which were introduced in 2015. And the most recent iteration is in name, image, and likeness. The concept of allowing student athletes the ability to profit from their name, image or likeness, just as any other student on campus has the ability to, makes total sense. However, this opportunity does not need to become the path to pay for play, which would erode the collegiate model, which is so important to us.
John Hartwell: (38:33)
Some key elements to consider when examining name, image, and likeness are these: first off, the percentage of student athletes likely to generate significant money from name, image, and likeness endorsements and sponsorships is a very small percentage of the total number of student athletes that compete. At the division one level, we have an average of 180,000 athletes to compete. I would venture to say that the number who could generate significant income off of name, image, likeness is a very small fraction of that.
John Hartwell: (39:08)
We also have to be careful of the unintended consequences of name, image, and likeness could create. Major recruiting violations have the opportunity to increase dramatically. It would be very difficult to monitor compensation and ethics, especially when funneled through third party entities. As I’d mentioned, Title IX could be a significant challenge based on the makeup of who would be these benefits. Also, revenues that benefit all student athletes on a campus, such as apparel and footwear deals, or corporate sponsorships may be reduced, that right now benefit every student athlete on campus, and instead be re-channeled to a select few student athletes.
John Hartwell: (39:57)
And also, I think an important point is the financial challenges will likely be the most severe at limited resource institutions. We’ve got to have recruiting guardrails put in place, make sure that they’re in place for collegiate athletics as it relates to NIL. Recruitment of prospective student athletes has to be safeguarded by the NCAA to maintain any type of competitive balance. In conclusion, we need Congress to pass legislation on NIL to provide a consistent national framework, and ensure collegiate institutions and student athletes are not forced to navigate different state guidelines on the topic. We would ask for swift, preemptive federal legislation to offset the individual state laws.
John Hartwell: (40:44)
I realize higher education may not be for everyone. In baseball and hockey, which have very strong minor league programs, there are alternatives if athletes in these sports don’t desire to go to college. We need to work with the NFL, the NBA, the WNBA, and other professional leagues to further study possible minor league development systems as an option for those athletes not inclined for higher education. As we navigate through an unprecedented and challenging times in our country, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and social and political unrest, we must safeguard the overwhelmingly positive impact of college athletics and its structure tethered to higher education.
John Hartwell: (41:29)
On behalf of my fellow athletic directors, I want to express our appreciation for your attention, to name, image, likeness’s impact on collegiate athletics going forward. We believe there’s a way to provide additional income opportunities to student athletes through NIL, while preserving the collegiate model and the student athletes amateur status. Thanks to each of you for your dedicated service to our country, and your interest in this important topic.
Senator Alexander: (41:58)
Thank you, Mr. Hartwell. Mr. Huma, welcome.
Ramogi Huma: (42:02)
Good morning. My name is Ramogi Huma. I’m a former UCLA football player and the executive director of the National College Players Association, which served as the primary advocate for the California, Florida, and Nebraska NIL laws, and is assisting nine of the other 27 States pursuing similar legislation. First, I’d like to thank chairman Alexander and ranking member Murray for inviting me to testify today. For the record, the NCPA’s opposition to each NCAA and power five conference proposal is included in my written testimony.
Ramogi Huma: (42:32)
In the last couple of months, we’ve seen colleges, conferences, and the NCAA voice opposition to racial injustice in policing and in other areas, which is positive. However, NCAA sports itself is based on racial injustice. The NCAA uses amateurism as cover to systematically strip generational wealth from predominantly black athletes from lower income households, to pay for lavish salaries of predominantly white coaches, athletic directors, commissioners, and NCAA administrators.
Ramogi Huma: (43:03)
Amateurism is further exposed as a fraud as colleges and commissioner cite billions in college football revenues as justification for resuming college football and the COVID pandemic without uniform safety standards. The claim education is the top priority is also exposed as false, as colleges cut non-revenue sports and players educational opportunities while paying coaches millions of dollars. NCAA sports is asking Congress to support this unjust system, and trample the rights of States that are adopting laws to protect their college athletes. NCAA sports claims that a patchwork of state laws that give athletes economic freedoms would be impossible to govern, but NCAA sports has demonstrated its ability to comply with an ever changing array of COVID orders issued by governors and counties, to return players to play in a pandemic. It can surely comply with any mild differences in state laws that grant college athletes economic freedoms.
Ramogi Huma: (44:02)
NCAA sports also claims a patchwork of state laws would ruin the level playing field in college sports. However, federal courts have concluded multiple times that a level playing field does not exist under NCAA rules. Colleges with the most revenues and wealthiest boosters have the largest recruiting budgets, have the best coaches, build the best facilities, and in turn, they get the best recruits, win the most games, and score the richest TV deals, allowing them to continue their dominance. In 2019, Ohio State University earn $209 million in athletics revenue. Utah State earned $35 million. Both are in the FBS division. ESPN preseason football rankings had Ohio State at number two in the nation, while Utah State was ranked 95th.
Ramogi Huma: (44:49)
College athletes shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice their economic freedoms and rights so the NCAA and his colleges can pretend that a level playing field exists. And the claims that non- revenue sports would have to be cut if players in revenue sports shared in some of the money that they generate are baseless. If big football and basketball revenues were needed for other sports to exist, then NCAA division two wouldn’t exist, but it does, over 300 schools where there are not enough football and basketball revenues to subsidize other sports. NCAA division three and AIA community college athletics won’t exist either, but they do exist. They simply don’t spend extravagantly like division one sports.
Ramogi Huma: (45:29)
We conducted an analysis with Jackson University professor Alan [Sterowski 00:45:33], finding that in 2017, the average division one FBS college spent about $34 million per year more than the average division one FCS college to field the same sports. This means that FPS expenditure levels are not necessary to field these division one sports. In fact, while FPS revenues exploded by over $5 billion between 2003 and 2018, the number of athletes decreased by over 300, while the number of assistant coaches increased by over 1,500. Administrative expenses skyrocketed by over $1 billion. It is clearly unnecessary to hire more coaches and administrators for fewer athletes.
Ramogi Huma: (46:16)
Part of the $34 million per school in excess expenditures could be used to compensate college athletes while fully complying with Title IX and preserving all non-revenue sports. Equal payments to athletes could come directly from conferences or the athletic association. It’s a very realistic model. All it would take is for colleges to curb some of the excess expenditures on extra coaches, enormous salaries, and lavish facilities.
Ramogi Huma: (46:38)
In closing, we’re asking Congress not to adopt a narrow NIL law designed to reduce athlete’s economic freedoms as requested by NCAA sports. College athletes don’t need congress to secure NIL freedoms, as states across the nation are already enacting equitable laws. Instead, we ask Congress to enact much needed broad based reform to bring forth the enforcement of health and safety standards, to end sexual abuse and negligent practices that harm college athletes, to prevent college athletes from being stuck with sports related medical expenses, improve graduation rates, and to finally allow players to share in the revenue that they generate. And yes, we would like NIL compensation to be included in a broad based bill, in a way that extends, not undermines, what the states are pursuing. We are grateful to the group of senators who put forward a legislative framework for a college athletes’ bill of rights that would bring forth broad based reform in college sports, and we support the direction of that framework 100%. Thank you.
Senator Alexander: (47:35)
Thank you, Mr. Huma. Thanks to all the witnesses. Votes have begun. We’ll continue the hearing, and we’ll alternate so we can go to the floor and vote. I’ll began a five minute round of questions. And again, I would ask senators to, and witnesses, to try to keep each senator’s time within five minutes. Mr. Huma, I agree with you about coaches salaries, in my thinking slightly different than the issue of name, likeness, and image that we’re talking about today. But I agree with the point that I think it would be a practical move for the NCAA, particularly if we were in the pre-COVID situation where television revenues were about to explode, to require most of that revenue to go for the benefit of student athletes, not to raise the salaries of coaches around the country.
Senator Alexander: (48:30)
But let me take that principle and apply it to name, image, and likeness. Mr. Hartwell, why hasn’t baseball come pretty close to getting it right? Here we have, there’s a great … I mentioned some of the [inaudible 00:48:49] baseball players, Sonny Gray, a couple of, David Price, Cy Young winner, Kumar Rocker is there now, he helped him win the World Series. When he graduated from high school, he had a choice to make. He could have gone straight into major league baseball, and probably played in the minor leagues for a little while, or he could’ve gone to Vanderbilt and got a Vanderbilt degree, been coached by Tim Corban, enjoy the undergraduate experience, but he’d have to stay for three years. So why shouldn’t we say that if some auto dealer [inaudible 00:49:27] bill wants to sponsor the name, image, and likeness of Kumar Rocker, or Sonny Gray when he was there, why shouldn’t those earnings go to all of the student athletes at Vanderbilt instead of to the pitcher?
Senator Alexander: (49:44)
Why shouldn’t we simply say that that jeopardizes the intercollegiate athletic experience for student athletes, and that if a pitcher, or a running back, or a quarterback wants to be sponsored individually by someone, they can become a professional? Now, they might find that even if they’re a very good quarterback, that they’ll earn a lot more money from the local auto dealer, if they’re a quarterback for the University of Alabama than they are for a class A professional football league. But why isn’t the right solution to make the choice a lot like the baseball choice, and to say, “Sure, you’ve got a right to earn it, but if you earn it and you elect to be a student athlete, then that money goes to all the student athletes. If you elect to keep it, then you become a professional.” Mr. Hartwell.
John Hartwell: (50:41)
Mr. Chairman, that model exists in some extent right now, as it relates to, again, the example I used earlier, whether it’s a footwear and apparel rights as it relates to a Nike or an Adidas or an Underarmor, and in the situation, if they were allowed to do individual deals … I’ll go back to our example, Jordan Love, our highest profile student athlete, first round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers. We would have a select few student athletes who would be able to command those types of revenues. And in all likelihood, as it relates to a footwear and apparel company, they would diminish the amount that they were providing to the institution and instead funnel it to that individual who they thought had the greatest opportunity to go forward and be professional, and have a greater return on that investment for them. And so in that example, you would, in all likelihood, not be able to provide two or three pairs of shoes and practice gear and uniforms for all the individuals on your track and field team, or on your gymnastics team, and things like that.
John Hartwell: (51:55)
And so those are the challenges that are there. And also with baseball, you’ve had the opportunity with baseball and hockey, they have very robust minor league systems that allow those students coming out of high school, who are not inclined to pursue higher ed, or who want to go directly to the professional ranks, that opportunity. And so that minimizes, in a lot of cases, the issues in those sports.
Senator Alexander: (52:22)
Ms. Dennis, I have [inaudible 00:52:23] seconds left. What would the impact be? Would it be better to allow any endorsement money to be spread among all the student athletes, or should the individual student keep it?
Karen Dennis: (52:37)
Shoot. Thank you for the question, Senator Alexander. I’m not sure how to answer that, because I think name, image, and likeness really, there are two different classes of student athletes that can really make money off of their name, image, and likeness. However, I do think all student athletes can benefit from the financial literacy and educational components, including financial literacy, how to brand themselves, how to create a brand and how to brand themselves, for after college. So I think there are two different set of athletes that will be affected by name, image, and likeness. However, all of them can benefit from it.
Senator Alexander: (53:36)
Thank you. I’m going to try to stick close to my five minutes to set a good example. Senator Murray. Senator Murray’s voting. Is Senator Casey available? Senator Burr.
Richard Burr: (53:59)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to all our witnesses today. I happen to be one of two collegiate scholarship players in the United States Senate. I may not know much about this, but it entitles me to an opinion, and I have been somewhat outspoken on the fact that I think this is a huge mistake, and I’ve expressed that to my colleagues, and to the NCAA. Let me say to all of you that this is an issue that could not be reversed if we made the wrong move. There’s no do over. So I would turn to you, Mr. Huma, and ask you, since your organization is predominantly funded by the United Steel Workers of America, what is their interest in name and likeness, and this issue?
Ramogi Huma: (54:58)
Thank you for the question. We’ve had tremendous support from the steelworkers since, for almost 20 years now. And as I mentioned, some of the progress that we’ve made over the years really couldn’t have happened without their support. And honestly, the steelworkers, and I can’t speak on their behalf, but they’ve demonstrated very clearly that they support our cause for college athletes, that really this issue is about workers who don’t have workers’ rights, and trying to navigate that space. And so whether it be legislation or raising awareness-
Richard Burr: (55:29)
They’re not great fans of college sports. They’re out promoting some type of equity that they think is being cheated. As a scholarship athlete, I’m having a hard time, it’s almost an out of body experience, in figure out how a professional athlete that gets paid millions of dollars was cheated somehow in college because they got an education, and now they have an opportunity at an income.
Richard Burr: (55:54)
I’m going to turn to chancellor Blank. I’m sure that your school, like every school, when COVID hit and decisions were made not to have fall sports for some, athletic budgets were reviewed and you began to look at what the impact was going to be of losing the revenue from fall sports. Tell me if you will, without specificity, because I don’t want to ask something of Wisconsin or the Ohio State or Utah State that’s proprietary, but how would that have impacted non-revenue sports, or how might it impact non-revenue sports, which are predominantly women’s teams?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (56:39)
[inaudible 00:56:39] almost all universities, we use the revenue that comes in from our athletic program to support the entire athletic program. It’s not unlike the rest of my university, where I have certain units like business or engineering, where they generate more income, but they aren’t ships on their own bottom. I use some of that revenue to support first-class history and political science and language programs. So similarly, we want to support a broad based athletic program, and our revenue, all of which goes back into the students and into the programs, it does that. So when COVID yet, we did cut athletic budgets. In fact, none of our teams are competing right now in the fall. As you know, the Big 10 has postponed its season because of health concerns. And all of the programs were equally affected by this, just as they all are equally benefited by the revenue that any team generates.
Richard Burr: (57:36)
Coach Dennis, so let me turn to you, because I’m sure you were privy to the budget calculations made at the Ohio State. And how would that have impacted your track and field and cross country teams?
Karen Dennis: (57:53)
Senator there’s no way that we would have a track and field team if a pay for play model existed where the majority of the revenue that, or the majority of money that could be paid to our high visibility student athletes, it would not allow our non-revenue sports to fund, or even just have the same number of student athletes on each team. Each team may have to reduce the number of participants, which would deny collegiate athletic experience for hundreds of students, and or sports would be dropped. Just recently here in the Big 10, Minnesota, due to COVID and the economic impact on their athletic budget, they had to drop their men’s track and field team. That’s happening in some of the [mat 00:58:53] Conferences where teams are being dropped. So it would have a really devastating effect on how programs would be able to exist.
Richard Burr: (59:03)
And lastly, director, you’re the athletic director, you’re where the buck stops. You’ve got to make the tough decisions. And I think you said your athletic budget total was $36 million, which to some degree is dwarfed by many institutions around the country. How would that have impacted specifically women’s sports at Utah State, if you lost your revenue sports, if significant changes happened in your revenue stream?
John Hartwell: (59:36)
Yeah. We have had to spread the wealth if you will. So our budget iterations for the current fiscal year have gone from 38 million to 35 million to 27 million, as a result of COVID-19. And it has been a correction, if you will, in collegiate athletics. And when this all started for us in March, the two priorities that we had to protect were sports and scholarships. And we compete in 16 division one sports, which is the NCAA minimum to be at the FBS level, so that’s really not an option for us. And obviously we want to protect our student athletes. So everything else [inaudible 01:00:16] and across the board, whether it’s men’s or women’s basketball, or football, or our Olympic sports, including all of the women’s sports, have taken an equal share in trying to help us get to the other side of this pandemic.
Richard Burr: (01:00:33)
I thank all of our witnesses. I’m going to take to the chairman’s lead, and my time’s expired. Senator Casey.
Bob Casey Jr.: (01:00:41)
Thank you very much. I wanted to thank chairman Alexander and ranking member Murray for this hearing today. I think we can all agree that the COVID-19 crisis has shined an even brighter light on the racial and economic inequities that continue to permeate our society, and it’s made clearer than ever the urgent need to address them. Today we’re discussing a college athlete model that is in need of reform, and I think that’s an understatement, to ensure that it justly benefits the athletes it’s meant to serve. It’s a system whose shortcomings disproportionately affect athletes of color, or are generating enormous revenues for the colleges and universities they represent, whether it’s playing football, basketball, or other sports.
Bob Casey Jr.: (01:01:27)
So I think we’ve got to keep in mind at least four broad goals. Number one, to ensure that the revenues generated by athletes are more equitably distributed. Number two, ensure that college athletes are kept safe and healthy, and that best practices are not just talked about, but in fact, implemented. Number three, improve academic output outcomes for college athletes. And number four, ensure that athletes voices are heard, and that they have a say in decisions that affect their wellbeing and futures.
Bob Casey Jr.: (01:01:59)
We know that millions of Americans love college sports and love the players who proudly represent their schools. We’ve got to make sure that the sports we love do right by those who play them. So let me start with, I’ll have a question for the whole panel in the time that I have, but I wanted to start with a question for Mr. Huma. In your testimony, you described how health and safety standards are not uniform across schools and are not enforced identically across schools. You’ve also spoken about how the issue is not that information on best practices doesn’t exist, but that it’s not being implemented. It’s critical we do all we can to keep college athletes healthy and safe, as I mentioned, not just during this pandemic, but during the course of their regular competition. So can you speak in greater detail about player safety issues, where best practices are known, but not implemented, and secondly, about the consequences for athletes regarding this lack of action?
Ramogi Huma: (01:03:05)
Sure. And thank you for the question. In 2001, there were three deaths in college football in the off season, one of which was heat illness. There was also the death of Cory Stringer, a Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman, who also died of heat illness. And the difference between the NFL and NCAA sports is that in the NFL, they implemented best practice guidelines and made them enforceable. In college sports, the NCAA refused to do so. I finished playing at UCLA, I had no idea that NCAA sports did not enforce health and safety standards, and to this day still does not.
Ramogi Huma: (01:03:39)
And unfortunately, there continues to be deaths related to feed illness and other preventative issues. And included in that is deaths related to sickle cell, concussions, even with all the different attention that concussions and CT has received, to this day it is not against NCAA rules for a football coach to force a player back in with a concussion on national television. The NCAA will not investigate, they won’t come to anyone’s rescue. As well as sexual assaults, we’ve seen at many of these institutions those players have nowhere to go, because the NCAA allows the schools to quote unquote self police. So it’s a major ongoing problem.
Bob Casey Jr.: (01:04:18)
… Remaining time that I have just for the whole panel, and I know these answers will have to be short, but we know the system has to be improved. We also have to work towards a system that treats athletes fairly, and makes sure that we listen to the voices of these athletes. Here’s a question for all the witnesses. What do you believe are the two or three most important changes we can make to the current model of college athletics, to ensure it treats players both equitably and is responsive to their voices? Maybe we can go in order of testimony.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:04:56)
Let me start, in that case. I first just want to say that what Mr. Human says is simply not true in the Big 10, which is the group that I’m most familiar with. We, for instance, have independent observers stationed at every game who can pull any player who is observed to have any concussion related illness, can override any coach decision. We care a great deal about safety and use best practices. And I just found your statement wrong, and I need to start by saying that.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:05:24)
Your question was, what could the … The main topic here is name, image, and likeness, and the most important things I think that the federal government can do with legislation right now is to preempt state laws, set some national standards for how name, image, and likeness should work, give us a narrow antitrust exemption so that we can enforce those laws, safeguard the student status that these are students are not employees, and help us address the Title IX issues so that name, image, and likeness doesn’t get caught up in Title IX in a difficult way. Those are the things that I think we’re asking for in terms of federal legislation, in the very near future.
Bob Casey Jr.: (01:05:58)
All right, maybe we can-
Sen. Casey: (01:06:03)
… the other answers could be by way of written submissions, if that’s all right.
Sen. Burr: (01:06:09)
I thank Senator Casey for that. All witnesses will have an opportunity to answer that in writing. Senator Paul’s recognized.
Sen. Paul: (01:06:17)
Advocates of change are beseeching Congress for federal regulation of college sports. Really, be careful what you wish for. The history of government regulation is not a benign one. What starts as a soft touch may well, ultimately, morph into a heavy hand. What happens if the democratic socialists of America win? Will universities become co-ops or communes? Will presidents and secretaries’ and coaches’ and players’ salaries be equalized? Be careful what you wish for. I think it’s a terrible, rotten, no good idea, to federalize college sports. The NCAA should promulgate their own rules. If the NCAA needs exception from antitrust rules to create these rules, I can support that. But setting federal rules for college sports is a huge mistake. Advocates of federalizing college sports argue, “Oh, we’ll have a hodgepodge of rules. And all the different States will have rules.” We hear this from the business community and I’ve opposed it steadfastly.
Sen. Paul: (01:07:25)
Federalizing the rules is a mistake. You may start out with rules. You like, but they may well morph into something that’s intolerable. The argument also ignores that the NCAA is particularly poised to promulgate nationwide rules because losing membership in the NCAA is a significant cudgel to enforce a nationwide rule on name, image, and likeness. I would propose that the NCAA can do this on theirselves, but we should not involve Washington. We should not involve Congress. It is a mistake to take this away from the NCAA and those who represent the NCAA from colleges. My argument is if you choose not to obey the NCAA rules and they kick you out of the NCAA, it’s going to be hard to get players. It’s going to be hard to have a Division I or an accepted program if you don’t obey the rules.
Sen. Paul: (01:08:16)
This should be left to the NCAA. I don’t think anybody on the committee agrees with me. So I won’t ask any questions and I’ll only take a couple of minutes. But I would suggest if we do another hearing like this, we ought to get somebody on the committee who actually thinks it’s a bad idea to federalize college sports. And that there is an argument that could be made for the NCAA doing this on their own. Thank you. And I yield back my time.
Sen. Burr: (01:08:39)
I thank Senator Paul. Senator Murphy.
Sen. Murphy: (01:08:40)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to Senator Alexander and Senator Murray for bringing us here together today. I’m a huge college sports fan and I can’t help but have noticed that this has turned into a $15 billion industry over the course of the last 15 years. In fact, in that period of time, it’s gone from a $5 billion industry to a $15 billion industry. And it’s the only multi-billion dollar industry in this country where we allow for the employers to collude in order to fix the wages of the majority of their employees. That’s what’s going on here. We can say that the workers, the athletes should be happy with the cost of tuition, but that’s not how the free market works. And to me, it’s just pretty rich to listen to a coach who’s making $5 million a year, tell his athletes that they should be okay with simply the cost of tuition.
Sen. Murphy: (01:09:41)
For all of those in this body who believe in the free market, I don’t know why we decide to keep it from athletes who are producing an incredibly and increasingly valuable service. And the argument is that they aren’t athletes, they aren’t workers. That they are actually just students who happen to play a sport. And the argument from Senator Alexander and others is that if they want to be pros, just go be pros, right? You have a choice. And so I want to start with you, Mr. Huma, just to try to understand whether those two arguments hold up and I want to make sure I have a minute remaining to ask one additional question of Chancellor Blank. So quick answers if you could, Mr. Huma. Can a high school football player who wants to go to the NFL and make money who’s ready to do so, can they do that?
Ramogi Huma: (01:10:32)
No, they have to pass through college. And so the college has a monopoly on college football, a big business. And even from there, just to say simply go pro, less than 2% step foot in the NFL. Yet you have 98% of people who never get that opportunity who rightfully deserve their fair share of that industry. And as we’ve shown in studies, this should be hundreds of thousands of dollars a year easily. And as we can prove, it would not require deleting non- revenue sports from the rosters and some of the… Ohio State has $209 million. It can’t say that if they were to share some of that with some of the revenue athletes that they suddenly have to cut all sports when other colleges in the same division are fielding all kinds of non-revenue sports. So you’ll get the scare tactic even from the top producers. It’s just not true.
Sen. Murphy: (01:11:20)
Let’s be clear. You don’t have a choice as a high value high school athlete. You can’t just go to the NFL. In fact, you can’t go to the NBA. You have to make a stop along the way in the big business of college sports, because there’s a lot of folks who make millions of dollars depending on it. Mr. Huma are these students like all other students? How many hours a week are Power Five football players spending on athletics? If they’re students and then on the side, athletes, I’d expect that they’d be putting in five, 10 hours a week on athletics. How many hours a week are some of these Power Five students putting into athletics?
Ramogi Huma: (01:12:04)
Well, when you ask about Power Five football, the NCAA’s own surveys show that the average FBS football player spends 44 hours per week in their sport alone. And even when you come to the other athletes, you’re talking about well over 30 hours per week. So to pretend that academics is first, and these are athletes who have to schedule their entire majors and coursework around athletics, who oftentimes have to miss games in many of these sports and prioritize their athletics. So that’s the true nature of college sports.
Sen. Murphy: (01:12:30)
So they don’t have the choice to go pro, they’re athletes first and students second. Let’s just be honest about that as we approach this conversation. Finally, in the minute that I have remaining, to Chancellor Blank, I’ve heard the argument from you and others that if you were forced to pay college athletes at least in sports like football and basketball that make money, then you couldn’t afford to run all the other sports. And I think Mr. Huma did a pretty good job of explaining that, in fact, there are plenty of other institutions from high school to Division III colleges that managed to run sports programs without making any money.
Sen. Murphy: (01:13:06)
So I’m not necessarily sure why you couldn’t adopt a model in which it’s just a little bit less professional looking. But let me make the argument to you that you don’t have to actually reallocate money at all outside of your football program. Your head coach at the University of Wisconsin makes $4 million a year. What’s the problem with just paying him the salary of the average member of Congress and taking those additional dollars and divvying them up amongst those who play for him? That wouldn’t affect the rest of your college sports, just reallocating money within the football program.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:13:44)
So I actually had been quoted as being quite critical of the amounts of money that we currently pay coaches. I’m an economist, it’s a market out there. As I noted earlier, it’s very hard to find people who have really top coaching skills, whether in college or in professional sports and the market competes those prices up. We used to restrict college coach salaries in the NCAA. There was a lawsuit on antitrust grounds that we lost. And at that point, since then, college coaches have simply been competed up by the market. I would be more than happy, and I’ve said this before publicly, to consider an antitrust exemption that would allow us to restrict coaches’ salaries. I think that is appropriate for college sports. I think it is somewhat outrageous that the highest paid employee in many states is their state university college coach.
Sen. Murphy: (01:14:35)
So in closing, you were not allowed by antitrust tools to be able to restrict the pay of college coaches, but you are allowed under current rules to be able to restrict the compensation of athletes? That just is patently absurd to me. And it’s one of the reasons why this committee has to be engaged with the Commerce Committee [crosstalk 01:14:55]
Sen. Burr: (01:14:55)
Senator, time’s expired. Senator Cassidy. He maybe having some technical problems.
Sen. Cassidy: (01:15:07)
Senator Burr, I’m walking on the street right now so I’ll defer until after the next set of questions.
Sen. Burr: (01:15:12)
Thank you, Senator Cassidy. Senator Romney.
Senator Romney: (01:15:18)
Very much Mr. Chairman. My concern about athlete compensation has been focused less upon the 2% that are going to go into the pros and who could make a lot of money. I know there’s a sense of jist. It’s just not fair that these very, very top athletes are not getting paid their full market value. I recognize that I, I appreciate that concern. My biggest concern has been the 98% who play on the football team or basketball team and are putting in as much as five, six, seven hours a day in practice and are never going to go on to the pros. And they’re making an enormous sacrifice and are doing so for the love of the sport and probably for hope that they’ll be able to go into the pros. And it, it seems unfair that they have to endure the kind of sacrifice that they carry out without the prospect of additional compensation.
Senator Romney: (01:16:13)
I’ve spoken with the NCAA about that matter. And they say are challenges that to provide any additional compensation to the members of these teams makes them effectively, under federal law, employees and therefore subject to employment law, which would mean they’d be subject to age discrimination actions, wrongful termination. You could get cut by a team and sue the team. Mr. Huma, is your thought that these college athletes might appropriately be members of a union, join a union?
Ramogi Huma: (01:16:44)
Well, I think that if there are state laws and the NLRA that recognize what they do as employees, they shouldn’t be denied rights under labor law. But in terms of different models of compensation, there’s many out there. I mean, players can receive money directly from the media outlets, which has nothing to do with employee status. Even the conferences of the association. There’s ways to really look at this and consider all of those different aspects. So again, I think that there are pretty realistic and easy models to consider that don’t get into some of the more challenging issues. They may not have full support of Congress, but what they do, obviously, they’re there to provide money for the university. They spend a lot of time. Looks a lot like workers. And so that is a possibility as well.
Senator Romney: (01:17:37)
No, I think the point is that I have a sense as to why the [inaudible 01:17:41] workers is interested in this topic, which is this is the potential for some unionization of college athletes which could be a real revenue generator for a union. And this, I think is the reason why, and Senator Paul raised the question about why is the federal government looking at this. The NCAA has come to the federal government and said, “Look, we could solve this, but we run up against all sorts of federal law and federal regulation. We need to have help to understand what you want us to do and guidance through this labyrinth.” Because obviously the colleges are not interested in having the athletes become union members, to be subject to employment law, wrongful termination, age discrimination.
Senator Romney: (01:18:23)
All the sorts of things that I think it would make it very difficult to run an athletic program. I guess my own inclination is that the right course here is to find a way to provide additional compensation to members of teams. For those that are, the 2% if you will, that, that either they might be able to get name, image and likeness, but limited to let’s say, $50,000 a year, no more than that, or allow them to go pro. And you indicated that, well, they can’t go pro. Senator Murphy just indicated, they can’t go pro in football, but my guess is that it’s going to be easier for football to change that and to follow more like the baseball model than for us to come up with a new law.
Senator Romney: (01:19:04)
So I wonder, would we satisfy the concerns that you have if we indicated that, look, we’re going to increase the ability to compensate all the members of a team, not just the 2% that go onto the pros and that the very high earner potential, the 2%, they might be able to get name, image and likeness, but limited to something like $50,000 a year? Does that work? And let me ask, Ms. Blank or Dr. Blank, would a process of that nature of work and do you see the same concern that I’m describing?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:19:40)
I would oppose that type of thing that becomes a pay for play system. I’m primarily an educational institution and I have 850 student athletes. And I run those programs because I want those students to develop a set of skills that may not be developed in other classrooms. I want them to learn self discipline, self confidence. The same thing I hope they are learning and other students are learning as they’re coming to college. And that is about an educational process. As you say, the main benefit these students take away is their educational degree. It’s not about coming here to earn money and to be an employee. So, no. I wouldn’t agree with you that I think that’s a good idea.
Senator Romney: (01:20:18)
Okay. Ms. Dennis.
Karen Dennis: (01:20:24)
Senator Romney, thank you. Pro athletes, football players can go pro in college. They can’t go pro like Mr. Huma said from high school. But we’re not interested really in for non-revenue sports and as well as I think for all of our student athletes. We’re not interested in being professionals of a university. We’re interested in being student athletes who gain from the educational experience. And if we started making all of our student athletes or have them go pro, our Olympic teams are going to be decimated. And I don’t know if you thought about the feeding system that college athletes serves for our Olympic teams. In 2016, the road to Rio ran right through the university system. There were 80% of our student athletes comprised our Olympic team. And of that, they were 555 members on Team USA and 436 of them, they were either incoming student athletes, current student athletes, or former student athletes. So I’m not interested in that.
Senator Romney: (01:21:47)
I would ask the other panelist, but I can’t go there given our time. So thank you, Mr. Chairman. I return to you.
Sen. Burr: (01:21:54)
Thank you very much. Senator Romney. Senator Murray.
Senator Murray: (01:21:58)
Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Huma, you were a college football player at UCLA, a large Division I program that brings in millions of dollars in revenue. But in your role as the executive director at the National College Players Association, you worked with college athletes, men and women, participating in a very wide range of sports. Those we see playing on TV and whose name we recognize as well as the vast majority who play sports that are never aired on TV and whose names we may never know. I wanted to ask you, in your work with college athletes, what are some of the biggest health and safety concerns for players? Are these issues different between sports or across the three NCAA divisions?
Ramogi Huma: (01:22:42)
Well, thanks for that question. There are issues that are very common across all the divisions. And again, the problem is because there’s no health and safety stands that are enforced by the NCAA, but there are life and death issue that continue to keep coming up. As I mentioned, heat illness. Some of you members may remember the death of Jordan McNair at Maryland, just a couple of years ago. That was completely preventable and Maryland admitted negligence. and it will happen. You can set your clock to it, and we don’t know exactly when, but it will happen until there are enforcement of those kinds of rules. Sickle cell related deaths, rhabdomyolysis from trainers and strength and conditioning coaches that really aren’t regulated in a way to make sure their workouts are safe.
Ramogi Huma: (01:23:22)
We mentioned the Big Ten. There’s plenty of problems at the Big Ten. They have actually some of the worst sexual assault scandals in the history of called sports that are still actively being investigated. Those issues, really go unaddressed across all these divisions because there’s nowhere for these players to go. Traumatic brain injury, CT. It’s not just football. And actually women’s sports have higher rates of concussions in comparable sports. So women’s soccer players have higher rates than men’s soccer players and on and on. So there are some things that are common in contact sports, especially, but it’s really throughout the divisions.
Senator Murray: (01:23:56)
Okay. Thank you. That’s very concerning. I wanted to also ask you, the safe reopening of schools across the country is a critical challenge for students and parents and staff and for many colleges, college athletes were the first students to return to campus in order to participate in summer workouts and practices. Are there mandatory enforceable protocols established by the NCAA for schools to follow?
Ramogi Huma: (01:24:23)
Well, when players started arriving on campus, there was absolutely nothing. And players began getting sick pretty much immediately. And those workouts across the nation and across various sports. The NCAA very late claimed to have set some things that were mandatory and that if there were problems, players would be able to call a hotline. But if you go to the NCAA’s webpage, they say, if there’s problems, call us and we’ll essentially ask your college and the conference to politely correct the situation. Not real enforcement. So truly when you look at whether or not, the NCAA is very calculated on this. When they want to enforce rules like on compensation, they’re there the whole… it makes national headlines, are hammering schools and players. When it comes to health and safety, they pretend like things are mandatory when in actuality, there are no punishments. So there’s no indication whatsoever right now that there’s anything that is enforceable when it comes to COVID and NCAA sports.
Senator Murray: (01:25:16)
Well, Dr. Blank, Coach Dennis, I want to follow up with both of you on this issue. On August 11th, the Big Ten made the decision to postpone fall sports until 2021. But it’s now a month later revisiting that decision. And like the college athletes at schools in my home state of Washington, I know the college athletes on your campuses also want to compete. But I think we have to all agree that health and safety of these young people has to be a top priority. Has the NCAA or the Big Ten provided protocols to your schools in light of the coronavirus?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:25:53)
Let me start. The most important policy that the NCAA has established and every school is following is that anyone who feels unsafe playing in an age of COVID can sit out this year. They will maintain their scholarship. They can return next year with no loss of eligibility and money. We want anyone who does not feel comfortable playing to not be able to play. And we’ve communicated that very clearly to all of our athletes.
Senator Murray: (01:26:21)
Are you saying, play or not? I was asking more specifically, are there any protocols that have been provided in terms of safety and health?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:26:30)
My understanding is the conferences are each setting their individual protocols. And that’s why the Big Ten, for instance, has made different choices than the SEC or some of the other conferences.
Senator Murray: (01:26:39)
Karen Dennis: (01:26:43)
Senator Murray, thank you. There are some very strict protocol in place at the Ohio State University for the return to play. Every student athlete is being COVID tested. If they are found positive, then they’re put into quarantine. There’s contact tracing around them. There’s a complete cardiology workup, including a cardiology MRI. If they are tested positive, then they cannot return to play until there’s approval from the cardiologist, after all the workups and the MRI that they’re safe to be able to come back to practice.
Senator Murray: (01:27:27)
Are those your school rules or are those-
Karen Dennis: (01:27:31)
That is at the Ohio State University. And I’m going to tell you, the student athletes there, to me, they have 24/7 concierge medical attention. Our trainers are up at 3:00 o’clock in the morning if necessary. If they get a phone call, then they’re being taken care of. So I’m sure there are some abuses around the country, but in the Big Ten, for the most part, and at Ohio State, those abuses do not exist. And to Mr. Huma’s credit, yes. It’s been some unfortunate occurrences with heat industries, the rhabdo situation at Iowa. But I’ll tell you, after those kinds of things happen, I just don’t believe, and they’re not taken lightly. And additional protocols have been put in place-
Senator Murray: (01:28:24)
By the NCAA or the Big Ten or by the schools?
Karen Dennis: (01:28:27)
By Ohio state, as well as the Big Ten.
Senator Murray: (01:28:32)
Mr. Chairman, I am out of time. So I won’t submit additional questions. Thank you.
Sen. Burr: (01:28:36)
Thank you very much, Senator Murray. Senator Kane.
Sen. Kane: (01:28:40)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and to the ranking member for holding this hearing. One of the things I love about this committee is some of the elements of our work are issues I’ve cared about and thought about a lot over the course of my life. Career and technical education is an example. But some are issues that even if they’re important to me as a citizen, I haven’t really thought that much about the public policy side of it. And today’s hearing would be an example of that. I just haven’t thought that much about the public policy side of collegiate sports. A couple of thoughts or questions because I want to be educated by the witnesses. In Virginia, the two largest schools, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, actually not largest, but two of our prominent institutions are both part of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Sen. Kane: (01:29:31)
The Atlantic Coast Conferences decided to play fall football. Virginia Tech’s first game was scheduled last weekend on September 12th against North Carolina State. That game had to postponed because of an outbreak of coronavirus among North Carolina State players. Virginia Tech’s second game was to be this weekend against the University of Virginia. That game has been postponed because of an outbreak of COVID among Virginia Tech players. But the ACC is still playing football. If we’ve had to scrap the first two games, the Virginia Tech games, and obviously the other teams that were involved, I just would like to ask each of the witnesses, why are we working so hard to continue fall football if the results, at least in the ACC, are such that grave questions about the ability to do it safely are so obvious?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:30:36)
[inaudible 01:30:36] So the Big Ten did decide to postpone its football season. It’s postponed all its fall sports. And there were several main reasons for that. One was that we were uncertain that we could do the level of testing and contact tracing that we needed to keep athletes safe. Secondly, there was this growing evidence about heart-related myocarditis. And that evidence was uncertain and it wasn’t clear what it meant and we wanted to know more. there were a few other more minor reasons. But until we have answers to that, we will keep our season postponed. Once we have answers to that and to some of those issues and things that we have ways to deal with them effectively, we will try to plan a delayed season. But I share your concerns. It’s one of the reasons we delayed our season.
Sen. Kane: (01:31:19)
Chancellor Blank, could I just ask you, some public reporting suggests that the Big Ten may vote this week to restore fall football? Are those reports accurate?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:31:30)
I’m not going to speak to that. You’re going to have to let the Big Ten make that announcement when, and if such a decision is made. When such a decision happens, your first question should be what’s changed. And hopefully we will have answers to exactly the issues that I’ve just raised.
Sen. Kane: (01:31:47)
Do you know whether a decision of that kind would require unanimous vote by the college presidents or some lesser vote?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:31:55)
I can’t say what the vote is going to look like. Decisions within the Big Ten are largely majority based decisions. But I’ll be honest, we almost always decide everything by consensus. We very rarely take votes.
Sen. Kane: (01:32:07)
Isn’t it the case that two Big Ten presidents are epidemiologists or have expertise in public health? The presidents of both the University of Michigan and Michigan State.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:32:15)
That is true.
Sen. Kane: (01:32:17)
How about others who want to answer that question? Why are we working so hard… I’m just using the ACC as an example. Why are we working so hard to maintain a fall football season, if Virginia Tech, just using Tech as an example, has had to postpone its first two games because of COVID?
Ramogi Huma: (01:32:35)
I’d like to weigh in. And really it’s very simple. It’s big money and it’s hard to pass up. And athletic directors and coaches have been pretty frank that. And one thing I’ll point out as much as people like to think that maybe a conference is going to do right, or somehow things are going to be okay, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association just put out a survey yesterday, finding that throughout all the different divisions in schools, less than half of the coaches and athletic staff are compliant with their own COVID guidelines, less than half. And you see outbreaks all over the nation. You see game postponements, season postponements.
Ramogi Huma: (01:33:08)
And no one’s talking about anything’s going to fundamentally change that without some real enforcement that’s uniform nationally. And there’s nothing anywhere close to that. The other thing I’ll point out is the conferences really aren’t enforcement entities. When was the last time you saw a conference enforce anything? So even if a conference puts out guidelines, the Pac-12 players were told by Larry Scott that it’s impossible to enforce uniform guidelines within the conference across 12 schools. And that’s basically how conferences have approached post health and safety. So they’re very much ill-equipped and pretty much unwilling to do what’s right in terms of enforcement when it comes to COVID and other health issues.
Sen. Kane: (01:33:45)
My time is up. I’m going to have a question or two that I’ll ask for the record, but I appreciate the witnesses. This has been very enlightening. Thank you.
Sen. Burr: (01:33:53)
Thank you, Senator Kane. Senator Scott.
Sen. Scott: (01:33:57)
Thank you Mr. The chairman and can you hear me okay?
Sen. Burr: (01:34:02)
Yes we can.
Sen. Scott: (01:34:04)
Excellent. To Chancellor Blank, my question is a simple question. How do we preserve the amateur nature of collegiate athletics while at the same time, allowing student athletes to benefit monetarily from the use of their name, image and likeness?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:34:21)
That’s exactly, I think, why we are concerned with the need for some federal legislative involvement in this. There are several things that I think we need to have in place in order to preserve collegiate athletics. If as name, image, and likeness payments become allowable, we cannot let a hodgepodge of state laws be in place that makes it almost impossible to compete on an even playing field. So some federal preemption of those state laws with establishment of national standards. We need a narrow trust exemption so that any rules that we set that, say, limit people from doing name, image and the likeness with a college gambling group, for instance. That we can enforce those sorts of laws. And I think that law should explicitly indicate the importance of the student athlete model that students are not employees, that they are students as well as sports players. And then finally, we have to address the timeline laws. Those sorts of things will indeed preserve the college athletic model while still allowing some payments for name, image, and likeness.
Sen. Scott: (01:35:26)
Just a followup to that. Do you believe that it would be necessary in that federal apparatus to have certain industries and or areas of interest excluded from the list of places where a student athlete could use their name, image or likeness?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:35:44)
I do think there have to be guard rails around the ways in which student athletes can do here. There has to be transparency about who is paying them. They have to be able to show, or we have to be able to show, and this is some regulatory process, that indeed they’ll be receiving reasonable payments for what a genuine service is. This isn’t a pretext for simply passing money under the table. Whether that is something you want to write into legislation, it’s not clear to me. I think that is something that any body that will be charged with regulating this law would want to establish those sorts of guard rails.
Sen. Paul: (01:36:18)
So you’d suggest that the federal legislation and or vehicle would create a broad outline and then having a governing authority maybe empowered by that legislation to create a uniform standard would be consistent with the philosophy that you’re echoing?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:36:34)
Sen. Paul: (01:36:35)
That’s great. Thank you so much.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:36:37)
Sen. Paul: (01:36:38)
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Burr: (01:36:39)
Thank you, Senator Scott. Senator Rosen, we’ll go to you.
Sen. Rosen: (01:36:47)
Here we go. Can you hear me okay?
Sen. Burr: (01:36:53)
Sen. Rosen: (01:36:54)
Oh, perfect. Thank you. I’ve been having some problems with our computer lighting. So thank you very much. Thank you Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing and thank you to the witnesses for being here today. I want to touch a little bit and build upon what some of my colleagues have talked about, COVID-19 concerns. Because college athlete compensation, it is an important issue that’s central to our discussion today, but we also can’t lose sight of an even more pressing topic. The risk that college athletes face due to COVID-19 pandemic. So of course we find yourselves in the opening school weeks of the year.
Sen. Rosen: (01:37:31)
The New York Times, just this past Friday, reported that in the prior week, there were 36,000 new cases of COVID-19 across the country, bringing a total number of cases for college campuses, nearly 90,000. That’s pretty high if you ask me. So the Big Ten, the Pac-10, the Mountain West conference. So that’s where UNLV and UNR play, in Nevada. They postponed their games for the fall season saying that the coronavirus just posed too many health risks. But in a survey by ESPN, nearly half of the Power Five conference schools declined to even provide data on the total number of positive COVID-19 tests of their college athletes.
Sen. Rosen: (01:38:13)
And almost one third of schools chose not to disclose information about their safety protocols. And I find this lack of transparency particularly alarming. Back in July in Commerce Committee, I called on the NCAA to issue nationwide guidance on COVID testing. And I was glad to see two weeks later that they had announced a comprehensive testing strategy. But recent reports have me concerned that we’re not following those sidelines. And so let me ask the witnesses here today, do you make COVID-19 information publicly available? And so Dr. Blank would you like to begin?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:38:53)
We have a dashboard that we update every day that provides information on our COVID-19 cases on campus, their positivity rates, how many tests we’ve-
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:39:03)
… this is on campus, their positivity rates, how many tests we’ve run, all of the types of information that would allow you to track what’s happening on campus. And there’s usually comments that are added to that, to help people understand more about what we’re seeing.
Sen. Rosen: (01:39:16)
And is everyone else on the panel, did you make COVID-19 information publicly available? And I’d also like you to comment on what more needs to be done, to be sure that every college is transparent about their COVID-19 testing-tracing protocols, and their positivity rights.
Karen Dennis: (01:39:35)
Thank you, Senator Rosen. at Ohio State, we also are in receipt of COVID-19 information on a daily basis. The information comes from our medical community, through the information through the CDC, and coaches are privy to that information every day.
Sen. Rosen: (01:39:59)
But what about the parents and the students? Are they privy to that information? So they know it’s a safe environment for them to be participating in.
Karen Dennis: (01:40:09)
I don’t believe the information is private. It’s on a website. So anything that’s on the website, to me, has the ability to be transparent. And as far as I know, we are transparent with our student athletes and our parent community, because they’re very important members of our Buckeye community.
Sen. Rosen: (01:40:33)
No, I appreciate that. And again, I guess to all the panelists, I just think about not just the student athletes, but your entire student community, and most parents should be part of these conversations going forward, because it’s really important. Just everyone, your professors, all the people who work at your University also have to make decisions based on the information that they find. So I guess we can move on, unless somebody has something else to say about that?
Ramogi Huma: (01:41:03)
I would like to say there are a number of athletes that have no idea what the infection rate is in their sports. Their programs are keeping it quiet. And also even players who have tested positive, sometimes they’re not getting a re-test before being reintroduced back into workouts. I’ll also point out that even the conferences that have postponed to the fall season, many players are still in workouts. Workouts that still aren’t up to snuff when it comes to best practices on health and safety standards.
Ramogi Huma: (01:41:28)
So even if there aren’t actual competitions going on in some of these conferences, players are still working out in environments that they have a lack of information about even what a violation would look like, what the schools are even promising to do. And if they saw a violation, who do they call? The NCA, which is just going to kind of ask politely for the schools to do something a little bit better, but there’s no real enforcement.
Sen. Rosen: (01:41:50)
So what do you think we should do in order to make this more uniform and protect, not just our student athletes, all of our students and the staff, professors, and everyone who might be coming to our college campuses for whatever reason?
Ramogi Huma: (01:42:04)
There needs to be full transparency nationwide within athletic programs and on campuses. And when it comes to athletics, there needs to be a national uniform standard, that’s actually enforced, with the same vigor that the school was an NCA would enforce, compensating college athletes.
Sen. Rosen: (01:42:18)
Thank you. I believe my time is up. Appreciate you all being here today.
Senator Alexander: (01:42:23)
Thank you, Senator Rosen. Senator Jones.
Sen. Doug Jones: (01:42:30)
Chairman. And thanks to all our witnesses today for being here. Its a fascinating subject. It really gets into a lot of many, many different areas, and I don’t think people fully appreciate, until they dig down. For me, I’ve always believed that where we’re headed, for some type of compensation, is a natural evolution of what has now become a huge billions of dollar business in America, and the economy. And I also think we’re leaving out some things, such as the ability to transfer back and forth a little bit easier than I think these athletes enjoy right now.
Sen. Doug Jones: (01:43:09)
But, I’d like to ask, I want to go in a little bit different direction on cost. To Chancellor Blank and to Mr. Hartwell, we hear a lot, and I think it’s appropriate to talk about the value that these athletes get from the Universities; with their tuition, with their room and board, with all of the things, that has a value. But I also know, and I’ve seen some criticisms, about this transfer pricing model.
Sen. Doug Jones: (01:43:36)
Now, I will admit that I’m not an accountant. But there has been some criticism that some of these models are not really giving a full, accurate picture of the actual cost to the Universities for these athletes. We hear a lot of big numbers, and that may be the retail cost. But, I’d like for you to address the need for transparency in assessing this, because I think that what we’re giving to these athletes right now has to be weighed with what we ultimately do, but it needs to be transparent. And I’d like you to talk about the value, and how you calculate that value at your institutions, and where we need to be looking going forward.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:44:18)
So we have a one page route that says here’s all the things that athletes get. We actually use that both with donors, when we’re asking them to support teams, as well as make it available to anyone else. The tuition books scholarship, as I say, is the, actually, lower end part of what students actually receive when you add in all of the coaching, the mental health, the free meals, the insurance coverage, plus the value of an education. And it’s hard to cost some of those things out in a very clear way. So we tend not to have a full cost all in. We tend to talk about them separately.
Sen. Doug Jones: (01:45:00)
John Hartwell: (01:45:03)
Ours is similar. In that, there’s a clear dollar value given each year to the grant and aid agreement, the scholarship agreement, that’s signed annually by our student athletes. Which at Utah state, is about $36,000, and that includes tuition, room, books, all of those things. But in addition, there’s so much more that’s provided, the individual strength and conditioning coaching, the academic tutors and help with registering, all of those things, the mental health counselors, the nutritionist, all of those things, that there is a value to.
John Hartwell: (01:45:48)
Although, we don’t drill down individually and say, “Hey, each student athlete gets two hours of strength and conditioning individual training per week, or the medical care that’s provided by our team physicians and sports medicine specialist.” So it is significantly more than that. $37,000. I think another really key factor here, and I’ll speak from personal experience, is I can remember in my mid 30s, which was quite a few years ago, talking to peers and colleagues, and they still had student loans that they were paying off.
John Hartwell: (01:46:25)
And one of the great assets of being a collegiate athlete, not only do you get to play a sport you love, but you get to do it debt-free in a lot of cases for those that are on full scholarship. And again, the financial challenges that come up eight, 10, 12 years down the road, for those still paying student loans off, a lot of collegiate student athletes don’t have that debt to pay.
Sen. Doug Jones: (01:46:49)
Well, thank you. [inaudible 01:46:51] Chairman before I ask the next question, I got a little bit of time. This letter from Southeastern Conference Commissioner, Greg Sankey is probably part of the record for this Commerce Committee, but [inaudible 01:47:04] ask unanimous consent that we make this a part of the record for our hearing today, if that’s okay?
Senator Alexander: (01:47:09)
Sen. Doug Jones: (01:47:11)
Mr. Huma, let me ask you one quick question in the limited time we have, one issue for a lot of these conferences, a lot of these schools, is liability. Liability for athletes that have gone before them, that have not been able to benefit from this. There’s been different proposals there.
Sen. Doug Jones: (01:47:28)
And I’d like to get your thoughts on whether there are safe harbor provisions you would support, from a player’s association, safe harbor for provisions that would allow this to be implemented without subjecting these schools to liability from past athletes, or any kind of alternative. And my time’s up, so just very quickly, please, sir.
Ramogi Huma: (01:47:51)
Just quickly, I don’t think players should be denied, past players should be denied opportunities to access the legal system. I think when we get into these spaces, we talk about how to carve college athletes out of basic protections, and even legal rights, I don’t think that’s an appropriate measure.
Ramogi Huma: (01:48:06)
I think if they bring suits and go try to pursue things, it’ll have to work itself out that way. Because if the NCA was breaking the law for decades, there needs to be some kind of restitution. And I think the courts are well positioned to rule on that.
Sen. Doug Jones: (01:48:21)
All right. Well, thank you. I may send that question around for the others to answer as well. Because I’m sure we will potentially get different answers there, but thank you, Mr. Huma. Thanks for all the witnesses. I appreciate it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Alexander: (01:48:33)
Thank you, Senator Jones. Senator Hassan.
Sen. Maggie Hassan: (01:48:37)
Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and to you and ranking member Murray for holding this hearing. And thank you for the witnesses for being here to testify today. I’m going to note before I get to my questions, that I am concerned that there continues to be an inconsistent approach across colleges, Universities, and conferences, to holding sporting events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some sports and conferences are not playing, while others are moving forward, even on campuses with some of the highest rates of infection.
Sen. Maggie Hassan: (01:49:07)
And there are varying levels of safety measures in place. The health and safety of college athletes and their communities must determine when, and how, college sports continue during this pandemic. So my first question is for Ms. Blank, as you know, decisions about how college sports will proceed are being made, as infectious disease experts and researchers continue to identify, and warn, about the longterm health impacts of COVID-19; even on young, healthy adults.
Sen. Maggie Hassan: (01:49:41)
One recent study of college athletes, in particular, found that there are potential longterm risks to heart health, even for those who recover from COVID-19. So Chancellor Blank, I’ll ask you first. Can you explain if your school has considered the potential longterm health impacts of COVID-19 on your athletes? And if so, how are you preparing to address these longterm healthcare needs for college athletes who may become infected with the virus?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:50:10)
Thank you for that question. We HAVE definitely considered that. We have a group of medical experts who work closely with our athletic department as they put together their procedures for how you do any training. As you know, the Big 10 has decided, at this point, to postpone it’S season. Part of its concern was exactly out of the unsettled evidence that we were getting on myocarditis, and on heart related issues. And our continued consult at the Big 10 also has a panel of experts from across our schools, from all of our various hospitals and medical schools that are consulting with the Big 10 on the decisions that they are making.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:50:49)
So, our concern is that we do this according to the best science and the best medical advice possible.
Sen. Maggie Hassan: (01:50:56)
Well, it raises to… Thank you. It raises though, to this issue, and then I’ll ask Mr. Hartwell, and Ms. Dennis to comment, are you making plans to take care of health effects that could last for the rest of an athlete’s life if they play? Will the University system, for instance, be covering those costs, or somehow acknowledging that if you ask an athlete to take on the risk of playing during COVID, that you have some responsibility for the longterm impacts of the health and the health effects. Chancellor, do you want to?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:51:39)
Oh yeah. I’m happy to respond. Sorry. I thought you were addressing that with the other two. Yes, we provide insurance to all of our athletes at a minimum. We cover them for anything that happens to them while they are student athletes for up to two years after that, in a number of cases… COVID is an interesting situation.
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:51:58)
Usually, we’re talking about more physical damage injuries, which are generated on the field in some way. We have, in a number of cases, covered athletes much longer who had injuries that they needed help on far beyond two years. Our expectation is if we have someone who has serious COVID related issues, that they contract with while they are planning, we would cover them.
Sen. Maggie Hassan: (01:52:22)
All right. Well, thank you for that. And I think I’ll go to another question to Mr. Huma, and ask Mr. Hartwell and Ms. Dennis, to respond to what I just asked the chancellor in writing, at a later time. Because Mr. Huma, I want to talk a little bit about concussions. I am introducing a bipartisan resolution with Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, recognizing this Friday, September 18th as concussion awareness day, to raise awareness of the impact of concussions and traumatic brain injuries.
Sen. Maggie Hassan: (01:52:52)
According to the CDC, there are between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports related concussions each year. And our current data sources may only account for a small percentage of the total instances of concussions. Concussions, and traumatic brain injuries are an important health concern for children, teens, and adults, including many college athletes. And we need to improve research diagnosis, overall understanding, and management of concussions.
Sen. Maggie Hassan: (01:53:20)
Mr. Huma, what is your organization doing to work with college athletes to raise awareness of the longterm effects of concussions? How should we consider these longterm health risks specific to college athletes, when we talk about compensation? Including benefits like healthcare and employment related disability.
Ramogi Huma: (01:53:39)
First, I’d like to just thank you for the work that you’re doing. It’s an important issue. Health and safety is our top priority and traumatic brain injury is one that has gone unaddressed in college sports, unfortunately. And raising awareness among is a top priority and how that can lead to CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, that has been found in college athletes. They have committed suicide, and found to have had CTE in their brains as well.
Ramogi Huma: (01:54:02)
And additionally, part of what we do with college athletes is to get them to realize, as much as possible, they have to be their own advocates. Because again, with the National Athletic Trainers Association, it’s very consistent. How athletic staff lean on trainers, they pressure trainers to return players with concussions to the same game, that’s been going on for quite some time. So those are very important issues. And I forgot this, what was the second part of your question?
Sen. Maggie Hassan: (01:54:26)
It was really… And I’m running out of time, so I’ll follow up with you in deference to the Chair, but it was really about what kind of longterm disability plans, or planning, should colleges and college athletes engage in? And whose financial obligation is it? So I’ll follow up with you at that. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Senator Alexander: (01:54:46)
Thank you, Senator Hassan. I want to thank the witnesses for a very illuminating hearing today and the Senators for their broad participation and good questions. Before we wrap up, Senator Murray, do you have additional comments or questions?
Senator Murray: (01:55:04)
Mr. Chairman, thank you. I did want to ask [inaudible 01:55:06] consenting, including the hearing record, a number of supplemental documents that were submitted by Mr. Huma, as part of his testimony.
Senator Alexander: (01:55:13)
Senator Murray: (01:55:16)
I appreciate that. And I want to thank all of our witnesses, and thank you, Mr. Chairman for this important discussion today. As I said, in my opening statement, you’ve had a long history on this committee of leading bipartisan conversations on important issues; today was no different. I think it’s clear that college athletes are being exploited. And while NCAA officials and coaches make millions, they don’t. And Congress needs to look at this and address these injustices. And finally ensure that college athletes get at a minimum, a fair share of the revenue generated from their own name, and image, and likeness, and their voice should be heard in the decision making.
Senator Murray: (01:55:54)
But also that they’re protected by enforceable health and safety standards, and have access to affordable healthcare, and receive a quality education. So I think we have a lot of work ahead of us. I look forward to working with all of you, and again, thank you to our witnesses for being here today.
Senator Alexander: (01:56:11)
Thank you, Senator Murray. And I want to thank you and your staff for working with us to create this opportunity today. We are coordinating with the Commerce Committee, which has principal jurisdiction over this issue. And the comments and the testimony today will be helpful to the Commerce Committee as it considers what action Congress should take.
Senator Alexander: (01:56:32)
I’d like to ask one last question, before we wrap up. Assuming that Congress were to act to create an entity who had the job of writing rules for compensation, for name, image, and likeness, who should that entity be? Chancellor Blank?
Dr. Rebecca Blank: (01:57:01)
So I’d be willing to talk about a variety of options here. I think it’s the worst choice would be to create a new regulatory body, which will only expand its role over time in ways that probably will not be helpful to anyone. My first choice would be to let the NCAA do this. They have the most expertise. And as you pointed out, have the ability to do this. There may be other existing government agencies that would look attractive to some people on this committee. That would be fine too.
Senator Alexander: (01:57:31)
Karen Dennis: (01:57:36)
Senator Alexander, I’m not really sure which governmental agency would this fall under. What I am sure of is that as a coach, I’ve got enough challenges and I don’t want to navigate my way through a labyrinth of different laws during the recruiting process. Because everything I do is challenging enough without having to try to figure out, from which perspective, this law is going to affect my recruiting efforts. As well as, all of our, as coaches, our recruiting efforts.
Karen Dennis: (01:58:11)
So I would just hope that the committee will consider something that is more uniform, something that is a more standard and central, set of rules that could guide coaches through the next phase of this movement to hopefully create some manner of compensation for our student athletes.
Senator Alexander: (01:58:38)
Mr. Hartwell, what entities should write the rules?
John Hartwell: (01:58:43)
Senator Alexander, I believe it should be Congress and Federal Legislation that writes the rules, working in close conjunction with the NCAA. Because the worst thing that can happen for collegiate athletics, and for prospective student athletes, is to have 50 different iterations at the various state levels of rules and regulations regarding NIL. I think a consistent national package in conjunction with the NCAA would be optimal.
Senator Alexander: (01:59:14)
And Mr. Huma, what entity should write rules, if there are rules to be written?
Ramogi Huma: (01:59:21)
I don’t think it should be the NCAA. The NCAA has absolutely failed in these areas when it comes to college athletes rights, and that’s why we’re here. I think that if there was an entity, it should be completely independent from the schools, because at the core of the problem is the conflict of interest that schools have. The NCAAs and association of schools, and it’s run primarily by athletic directors in terms of direction.
Ramogi Huma: (01:59:43)
And the schools just have a conflict of interest. So it needs to be a neutral third party. And I think players need to be incorporated in that. Whether it be former players, current players, but players need to be primarily in and around areas when it comes to college athletes rights. Another big reason why we’re here is because players have never really had that opportunity.
Senator Alexander: (02:00:00)
Thank you very much. And thanks to all four of you. I know all of your busy, you have important responsibilities, and you’ve given us a big chunk of your time. My own view, which I stated in my opening statement, is that Congress should act and that it should authorize an entity to be safe from litigation to write the rules about name, image, and likeness.
Senator Alexander: (02:00:28)
And my recommendation would be that entity should be the NCAA. The alternatives are much worse. I mean, the alternatives are to create a new entity. And I’ve had some experience in watching new commissions created by the Federal Government. It takes a long time to do that, for one. Second, an entity like the Federal Trade Commission, would have no expertise in higher education or student athletes, and no responsibility, really, for higher education.
Senator Alexander: (02:01:02)
I think the worst thing would be for the Congress itself to write the rules. I mean, if anybody’s watched 15 or 20 senators, try to agree on a press release, imagine what 535 members of Congress would be like trying to write detailed rules in an area. What Congress should do in my opinion, is authorize an entity to write the rules. And then Congress should do what Congress does best, which is aggressive oversight, to put the spotlight on what’s happening and then change whatever needs to be changed.
Senator Alexander: (02:01:38)
My recommendation for the entity would be the NCAA. It’s not supposed to be run by athletic directors. It’s supposed to be run by presidents and chancellors of institutions. And if they’re not, they’re not doing their job and it needs to be reformed. It ought to be reformed. And while the NCAA isn’t perfect, and as controversial any entity, as I said earlier, who writes rules for intercollegiate athletics is going to be controversial.
Senator Alexander: (02:02:05)
My own view, as expressed earlier on this, is that while there are a number of things I’d like to see the NCAA do, such as take increased television revenues and make sure they go for the benefit of student athletes, and their programs, and their academic support, rather than higher salaries for coaches and administrative tasks. I don’t really want to see individual athletes have an opportunity to profit while they’re student athletes from their name, image and likeness. They may want to be rewarded for their name, image or likeness.
Senator Alexander: (02:02:43)
But in my view, those dollars, like other endorsement dollars at most institutions, should be distributed for the benefit of all the student athletes at that institution. And if an individual athlete prefers to keep the money that he or she might earn from a name, image, or likeness, that that person should go professional. I think that’s much better than jeopardizing the entire tradition of student athletes.
Senator Alexander: (02:03:13)
And I liked the direction in which major league baseball, and the NCAA, have taken baseball players. I mean, programs like Vanderbilt, Virginia, and others as well, are really of minor league quality. I mean, the Vanderbilt, the baseball team is at least AAA, most of the time, and some of its players, as we mentioned earlier, could have gone directly from high school, into professional leagues. They chose not to. They chose to take the undergraduate experience. The four year degree, the education from coaches who are among the best teachers in the country, and the other support. And stay for at least three years in undergraduate school. And then go on to have highly successful professional careers.
Senator Alexander: (02:04:01)
That direction, those sorts of choices, seem to me to be right. It doesn’t restrict any high school student’s ability to be a professional. They can go do that if they wish. But if they want to be a student athlete for a period of time, say three years in the case of baseball, then they must play by the rules of student athletes. And by that tradition, which is well ingrained, in which millions of Americans have benefited from. The hearing record will remain open for 10 days. Members may submit additional information for the record within that time, if they would like. Our committee will meet again on Thursday, on September 17, at 10:00 AM, for a hearing on higher education, entitled Time to Finish Fixing the FAFSA. As all the witnesses know well, the Federal Aid Application Form is filled out every year by 20 million families.
Senator Alexander: (02:04:59)
For six years, Senator Murray and I, and our committee, and various members, including Senator Jones, Senator Bennet, Senator Collins, and others, have been working to reduce the number of questions, decrease the flexibility, so that we can increase the number of students who take advantage of Federal Aid for higher education. We’ve taken some important steps toward that. This hearing is about finishing that job. Thank you for being here today. The committee will stand adjourned.