Lawmakers Propose Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

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Two federal lawmakers from Florida have partnered to introduce legislation that would create a congressional commission to oversee college sports. 

U.S. Reps. Donna Shalala and Ross Spano called for the creation of a Congressional Advisory Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which would seek to address a number of issues related to college sports — not just name, image and likeness legislation.

According to a statement obtained by Athletic Business, the legislation — dubbed the Congressional Advisory Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics (CACIA) Act — would empower an independent commission to examine “the interaction between athletics and academics, the financing of college sports, recruitment policies and retention practices for student athletes. Additionally, the bill further examines the NCAA’s policies on institutional oversight and governance, compensation, the health and safety protections for college athletes, due process and equal enforcement of rules.”

“College sports, as overseen by the NCAA, have undergone a massive transformation in recent years,” Shalala said in a statement obtained by Athletic Business. “As profits, compensation for coaches, and spending on luxurious athletic facilities have ballooned, the association has repeatedly failed to address systemic problems with respect to the health and well-being of student athletes,” she said.

“Our higher education institutions receive a substantial amount of federal student support funding,” Spano said in the statement. “There is little oversight, and as a result, we have little insight into how the funding is being spent and if the students’ best interests are being prioritized. This commission would fill that gap.”

The proposed legislation comes at a tumultuous time for the NCAA, as the body responsible for governing major college athletics faces unprecedented scrutiny and legal challenges to some of its rules. States around the country are considering adopting laws that would defy NCAA rules regarding compensating student-athletes for use of their name, image or likeness, and NCAA president Mark Emmert has asked federal lawmakers to weigh in on the issue, seeking to avoid an administrative disaster should individual state laws go into effect prior to a time where the body could adopt its own rule changes. 

Shalala, the former president at the University of Wisconsin and University of Miami, told the Los Angeles Times that the NCAA has “absolutely no clout with me.” She told the newspaper that despite her disdain for the NCAA, she respects athletic conferences. 

“I have far more respect for their student-centered approach than I do for the NCAA,” Shalala said. 

According to the LA Times, the commission would include appointees from each of the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, as well as one person appointed by the Secretary of Education. The commission would study the issues outlined in the bill, and compile a report, including recommendations for any changes, to present to Congress.

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