LEAD1 Byte of the Week: Federal Intervention in College Sports

Federal intervention in college sports is not new but taken together, the recent legislative efforts at the federal and state level could represent a new age in college athletics.

It’s been a busy few weeks of March Madness, but it’s been even busier on Capitol Hill for college sports.

Last week, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy released a report detailing his concerns about the commercialization of college athletics. Murphy’s report followed a bill introduced last month by Representative Mark Walker that provides name, image and likeness rights to student-athletes.

Last fall, Representative Al Lawson, who was a star basketball player at Florida A&M University, introduced legislation that would enhance benefits for student-athletes and eliminate the NBA’s One and Done rule.  I am not surprised by this legislation as I can’t imagine many members of Congress think One and Done is a good idea.

Federal intervention in college sports is not new. Title IX passed in 1972 and dramatically changed women’s sports. When I was in Congress, I was one of the sponsors of The Student Right to Know Act which passed in 1990 and required universities to disclose the graduation rates of its students and student-athletes. Can you imagine college athletics today without these graduation rate statistics to assure the educational progress of student-athletes?

The last major college sports related legislation passed by Congress was 15 years ago, in 2004, with the Sports Agent Responsibility and Trust Act.

It looks like college sports are still popular on Capitol Hill.