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Congressional scrutiny of how well the NCAA is meeting the educational needs of student-athletes vs. building the business of college athletics will be increasing again today.
Two House members are sending a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert asking him to respond to more than two dozen questions about NCAA practices and the responsibilities of its schools to "provide rigorous academic opportunities and instruction to its 'student-athletes.'"
The letter is being sent by Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., a member of that committee who last fall introduced legislation that would require colleges with high-revenue sports programs to provide their athletes with a package of benefits, including financial aid when a scholarship is lifted for reasons other than misconduct or academic failure. A copy of the letter was provided to USA TODAY Sports on Monday by Cárdenas' office.
Cummings and Cárdenas want details about how the NCAA oversees educational matters, its handling of athletes' health and its finances. They also seek employment agreements for Emmert and other top NCAA executives, "including the specific criteria on which compensation, bonuses or other financial incentives are awarded, and whether those criteria relate to the academic performance of student-athletes at member institutions."
The letter asks that Emmert and the NCAA provide the requested information by June 9. That is the scheduled start date of an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA regarding the use of college athletes' names and likenesses and the association's limits on what major-college football and men's basketball players can receive for playing sports.
The new correspondence follows not only Cárdenas' bill, but also one co-sponsored by Rep.Charles Dent, R-Pa., and Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, whose provisions include increased due process for NCAA athletics programs accused of misconduct and making four-year scholarships mandatory for athletes participating in contact/collision sports.
This month, another House committee had a hearing regarding the efforts of Northwestern scholarship football players to unionize -- a session that became a platform for criticism of the NCAA and Division I schools.
In addition, a Senate committee announced plans for a hearing on "Promoting the Well-Being and Academic Success of the College Athletes." Three members of that panel -- chair Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; and Cory Boooker, D-N.J. -- sent a letter to Emmert with a 10-point series of requests, including demands for NCAA rights contracts.
The Cummings-Cárdenas letter touches on a number of recent news reports concerning athletes' academic performance, including findings of academic fraud at North Carolina. It also mentions an NCAA legal filing in a wrongful-death suit filed by the family of a football player who died after suffering a head injury during practice. In that case, the NCAA said it "denies that it has a legal duty to protect student-athletes."
The congressmen ask Emmert to provide "a detailed explanation for the basis of this legal position, including a detailed explanation of who the NCAA believes has the legal duty to protect student-athletes."
The letter asks Emmert to provide information from each of the last five years about "all NCAA investigations into the quality of education administered by member institutions and all enforcement or disciplinary actions initiated by the NCAA against member institutions or student-athletes for academic reasons."
The letter also requests for the same period a description of all instances in which an NCAA member school has "withdrawn, terminated or failed to renew a student-athlete's scholarship for non-disciplinary reasons and by whom this decision was made."