U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Exploring a Compensation Framework for Intercollegiate Athletes,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. This hearing will examine the National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Governors’ recent report on student-athlete compensation and the modernization of rules related to name, image, and likeness (NIL) commercialization. Witnesses will have the opportunity to discuss topics regarding commercial use of
- Mr. Keith Carter, Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics, The University of Mississippi
- Dr. Michael Drake, Chairman, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Board of Governors
- Ms. Dionne Koller, Law professor, University of Baltimore
- Mr. Greg Sankey, Commissioner, Southeastern Conference
- Mr. Eric Winston, Former National Football League Player and College Athlete
*Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Full Committee Hearing
This hearing will take place in the Russell Senate Office Building 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
*In order to maintain physical distancing as advised by the Office of the Attending Physician, seating for credentialed press will be limited throughout the course of the hearing. Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream.
**Note: Witness list updated 6/29/2020
Chairman Roger Wicker
College sports are a rich part of the fabric of America’s families, communities, and states. College sports have long been deeply rooted in our culture.
This is true in my home state of Mississippi, where there are over 30 institutions of higher learning that offer college athletic programs.
Like of a lot of places across the United States, college sports is never far from the minds or memories of Mississippians. Re-living and recounting the results of past contests is a common occurrence. For example, Ole Miss fans still talk about Sinquez Golson’s game-winning interception in the end zone to help Ole Miss knock off top-ranked Alabama in 2014. I was there, I remember where I was sitting in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at the time. And it is still thrilling to recall Morgan William’s overtime jumper to help the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs end UConn’s 111-game winning streak in 2017 – we just needed one more win.
College sports contribute so much more than triumphant or heartbreaking memories. Sports help engrain in our student-athletes the values of fair play, sportsmanship, and teamwork. Sports have helped lead societal change and they continue to help unite the country. College sports also offer valuable academic opportunities for students who might otherwise have none.
With these things in mind, I approach the topic of today’s hearing with an abundance of caution and reluctance – even skepticism and trepidation. On this issue, Congress might well heed the time-honored Hippocratic Oath “First do no harm.”
As the committee of jurisdiction over youth, amateur, collegiate, and professional sports, this Committee seeks expert advice today as we decide which direction we begin to take for Congressional action on the issue of NIL, compensation in college sports.
More than 30 states have adopted, introduced, or signaled plans to introduce legislation allowing for student-athletes to be compensated for the use of their NIL.
I believe my colleagues recognize the need to avoid differences among the states by having a uniform set of standards by which our collegiate student-athletes compete -- a set of uniform standards that will strive for a level playing field.
At the same time, we must recognize that any standards for the compensation of NIL must also provide protections for students, schools, and associations -- particularly for the student-athletes. We must be mindful of the law of unintended consequences. Human nature being what it is, we need to realize that some of our fellow mortals will seek – and likely find – loopholes for an unfair advantage.
Over the last four months, I have spent hours on the phone with university presidents, athletic directors, and former collegiate athletes to help understand the current collegiate student-athlete system and how to approach a national policy on NIL.
As part of that process, and in preparation for this hearing, I sent a list of 20 questions to 50 collegiate associations, conferences, universities, colleges, and service academies. We have summarized those responses and put that information on the committee’s website. Without objection, I will enter that summary document into the record at this point – hearing none that will be done.
In May, the NCAA Board of Governors Working Group issued a report on student-athlete compensation, the modernization of rules related to NIL commercialization, and recommendations to Congress. We are grateful to have that input as well, and I ask unanimous consent to insert that into the record also – without objection that will be done.
In almost every discussion I have had, the topic inevitably turns to a look at the many ways this issue might be abused or go awry.
- For example, will high school athletes choose to attend a university in a large media market because they believe it will generate more NIL value?
- How will universities – or their supporters – be prevented from manipulation of NIL contracts in the recruiting process?
- Will businesses invest in student-athlete NIL rights to promote a legitimate business, or as an avenue to create access to athletes, coaches, and athletic programs?
- Will it be easier or harder for the star player on a team to put the team first, even when showcasing individual talent may increase NIL income?
- Will NIL result in a rise in student-athlete transfers to universities in bigger advertising markets?
- How will third parties contracting with student-athletes be regulated? And how will that impact schools’ ability to ensure compliance and enforcement of the NCAA rules?
- Is an 18-year old emotionally and financially prepared to make all the choices required to enter into NIL contracts?
- What will be the impact on the student’s academic obligations?
- Will permitting compensation for NIL further widen the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” among institutions of higher learning.
- What about the effect on Title IX and women’s sports?
The list goes on and on.
Let me single out Senator Moran for taking the first steps on this issue by holding a subcommittee hearing on NIL earlier this year. I know he shares with me the sense of importance and urgency this issue demands. I look forward to working with him and all of the members of the Commerce Committee as we move forward to seek a solution.
Many questions remain. I hope our committee will gain a better understanding of these complicated issues and the challenges before us by means of these expert witnesses today.
Let me again thank them for being here.
I now recognize my dear friend and colleague, Ranking Member Cantwell, for her opening remarks.
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
Opening Statement at the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Hearing titled “Exploring a Compensation Framework for Intercollegiate Athletes”
Witnesses: Mr. Keith Carter, Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics, The University of Mississippi
Dr. Michael Drake, Chairman, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Board of Governors
Ms. Dionne Koller, Law Professor, University of Baltimore
Mr. Greg Sankey, Commissioner, Southeastern Conference
Mr. Eric Winston, Former National Football League Player and College Athlete
July 1, 2020
CANTWELL: Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you for that long and thoughtful statement and for a little bit of reminiscing about your own experiences. I consider myself a sports fan and definitely a collegial sports fan but certainly one that sides with wanting to have amateur athleticism and to make sure that we’re keeping armature athleticism. If anything, I feel like we should be doing more as a committee in our oversight of the violations of that athleticism and amateurism that occur all the time and mark me down as not a fan of one and done but someone who really believes in a collegial system; as you said, of giving athletes an experience of leadership, teamwork, building all sorts of character that I hope that we can continue to preserve as we look at this legislation. And I want to thank our witnesses for being here too. I know you come from a breath and depth of experiences on these issues.
At the outset, I hope we have a chance to talk about the current healthcare crisis. As we are moving closer to the beginning of the academic year, and know that the pandemic is not relenting, I want to make sure we are putting into place safe guards to protect our student athletes as we look forward to what the collegial environment might be this fall. So ill have a chance to ask people about this. This issue of compensation for student athletes is a complex one as the chairman just mentioned with strong feelings on both sides and growing legal battles in the courtrooms and state legislatures around the country. Despite its complexity, it is impossible to ignore the simple facts that these athletes do produce billions of dollars of value for the NCAA and member institutions and aren’t able to market themselves as other athletes—students would be.
So the status quo is especially jarring as we look at this national reckoning on racial justice and civil rights issues and want to understand the impacts of the NIL on all athletes. So I look forward to the discussion and potential solutions that we’re going to talk about today. I am not a fan an NCAA anti-trust exemption. I think that quashing all momentum for change with this blunt legal instrument is both unnecessary and ill-advised. Similarly I oppose congress fully deferring to the NCAA on coming up with the rules on NIL. I think congress should not abdicate its role and I think the chairman’s very thoughtful discussion and hard work on this shows that we need to have some input and oversight to make sure its done right.
The chairman just articulated a long list of complexity to the issue which I very much appreciate his understanding, and the delicate balance that so many institutions have already tried to achieve by complying with the rules that are on the books today. And so, I agree with the chairman that we don’t want to see a new system in which violations would occur because somebody sees a new avenue to promote a competitive edge in what is, hopefully, as balanced as we can get. But again like I said I think we should have more oversight on these issues. So how can we find a solution that preserves both the character of college sports while also providing athletes with well deserved rights.
So as I said, I believe in preserving amateurism and that athletes will be able to grow and I look forward to hearing professor Koller’s comments on this issue and exactly how we can achieve this. I believe congress should take the time to get this right. It must be an open process, hundreds of thousands of current athletes, and millions of future athletes and their families are depending on it. As the chairman said, this is a long tradition, its part of our culture; these institutions, these athletic events. We don’t want to turn them into one more avenue of people just gaming the system, on behalf of the athletes, and then leaving the athletes without their own recourse.
I look forward to seeing a set of solutions that we can all agree on. And I hope that we can also at some point in time, Mr. Chairman, look more closely at mechanisms to ensure that female athletes have the same opportunity to earn compensation as their male colleagues. I think this is an important issue that deserves its own hearing and deserves its own focus and hopefully we can get to that at some future date.
So thank you Mr. Chairman.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Keith Carterice Chancellor for Intercollegiate AthleticsThe University of Mississippi
Dr. Michael DrakeChairmanNational Collegiate Athletic Association, Board of Governors
Ms. Dionne KollerLaw ProfessorUniversity of Baltimore
Mr. Greg SankeyCommissionerSoutheastern Conference
Mr. Eric WatsonFormer National Football League Player and College Athlete