Congressional proposal would review college sport, distribute revenue, and cover athletes’ medical costs

Congress’ most recent proposal to reform college sport aims to go far beyond codifying a college athlete’s ability to earn approval money.

The College Athlete Bill of Rights, proposed Thursday by co-authors Senator Cory Booker, DN.J., and Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Would create sweeping changes for college sports, including provisions that would force some schools to share revenue with guarantee lifelong scholarships to athletes in good academic standing for a number of their athletes, establish health and safety rules enforced by hefty fines for offenders, and set up a fund to cover some of their own medical costs for current and former athletes .

The rules and requirements outlined in the bill would be enforced by a newly formed Commission on College Athletics, which would be headed by nine board members appointed by the President of the United States. They would hire a staff to resolve disputes, propose changes to the rules, and investigate misconduct with the power to sue witnesses. This group, which would receive $ 50 million in taxpayers’ money for the first two years, would do much of the police work in college sports.

“This is one of the few industries in America that has access to those responsible for generating the most revenue,” Booker told ESPN. “I feel like the federal government has a role and responsibility that we shun in terms of protecting athletes and ensuring their safety. I truly believe there is an urgency here that hasn’t been around for decades and decades. get on and do something about it. “

Booker’s bill is one of six proposals by members of Congress to regulate the evolving business model of college sports. NCAA President Mark Emmert and others have asked federal lawmakers to help draft a national law that will regulate the future market for college athletes selling their name, image, and likeness rights. The NCAA board of directors will vote next month on whether or not to change the rules to allow athletes to collect NIL payments. Emmert said at a conference last week that in a sense their vote “depends on” help from Congress.

Other proposed bills specifically address what types of approval agreements college athletes should be allowed to sign and what types of restrictions colleges and the NCAA should be able to enforce. The bill proposed on Thursday represents a broader overhaul of college sport. Booker said the increased scope was necessary because the NCAA has not done a good enough job protecting its athletes on several fronts. Blumenthal said a bill that creates new rules without a strong enforcement element is “essentially a dead letter”.

Both senators consulted with various sports leaders from the university when drafting the bill. Booker said they deliberately had most of their conversations with current and former athletes because he wanted to draft legislation solely aimed at improving or protecting athletes’ rights. Blumenthal said they heard some quiet support from college presidents who believe college sport needs major reforms.

The bill’s first stop in the legislative process will be discussed in the Judiciary Committee. Booker said he thinks it is possible for Congress to pass a law to reform college sports in the first half of 2021. The bill’s co-sponsors so far are all Democrats. Blumenthal said that depending on which party controls the Senate, it could increase their chances of moving forward quickly with their “ambitious and sweeping” law. Regardless, he said, “this is just an idea whose time has come.”

Booker said he had encouraging conversations with politicians from both sides of the aisle about some of the issues addressed in the bill.

“I am cautiously optimistic that using this framework we can build support for truly substantial changes in the way the NCAA works,” said Booker.

That framework is further elaborated in a 56-page proposal outlining how changes would be implemented or regulated. Some of the most notable details are:

Name, image and likeness

• College athletes should be allowed to sign underwriting agreements with a wide variety of companies. They should report any deal to their athletics department within 21 days. That information would be stored in a private database.

• Athletes could enter into agreements with clothing brands that compete with their school’s clothing brand, but schools may require them to wear school supplies during mandatory team events. The only exception is footwear. Athletes should be allowed to wear their individual sponsor’s shoes during team events.

• Government governments can enact laws that prohibit athletes from supporting companies in certain industries (gambling, illegal substances, etc.), as long as universities are also prohibited from supporting the same industry. Unlike other proposals, individual schools could not place any restrictions on the type of company an athlete can endorse.

Profit distribution

• Athletes who generate more income than the total amount spent on scholarships in that sport would be entitled to share 50% of the money left after scholarships are paid. For example, in FBS-level football, the committee would add up the revenues from all 130 football programs and subtract the total cost of scholarships for all those programs. Half of the money that is left will be split evenly among all players at the FBS level. The sports currently generating enough money to qualify for this revenue split are football (both FBS and FCS levels), men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball, according to Booker’s office.


• Athletes would be allowed to hire agents or join groups that would help them secure group license fees. Schools, conferences, and organizations like the NCAA shouldn’t dictate which agents an athlete is allowed to hire. The proposed committee would create and oversee a process for certification agents.

Medical care

• Schools should contribute annually to a medical trust fund to cover the cost of medical care for injuries related to an athlete’s sport. Athletes are eligible for funding during their college career and for five years after it ends.

• The US Department of Health and Human Services would set standards of care for health, welfare and safety. Those standards would cover concussion protocols, sexual assault, long-term injuries, and more. Any schools that violate the standards can face fines of up to 30% of their annual athletic income, which equates to tens of millions of dollars for Power 5 schools.


• Schools should continue to pay for an athlete’s scholarship until they complete their undergraduate degree, as long as the athlete maintains a GPA of 2.2 or higher.

• Schools should not discourage athletes from taking certain classes or participating in other extracurricular activities. Those who break that rule can face fines of up to 20% of their annual athletic income.

Bank transfers and bills of exchange

• Athletes would be given the opportunity to change schools without being punished. Athletes would not be able to transfer during the season of their sport or in the 45 days prior to the start of the season.

• Athletes could also participate in a design for a professional sports competition without losing their fitness. If the athlete decides not to become a pro after entering the draft, they must notify their athletic director that they will return to college within seven days of the draft ending.


• The committee would consist of nine members with different expertise and backgrounds. Members would serve five-year terms. At least five of them should be former athletes at any time. Directors of a university or athletics department are not allowed to sit on the board.

• The committee would collect and publicly share an annual report from every athletics department of every university – both public and private schools – describing their finances. The reports would include their annual income and expenses, including coaching salaries and booster donations.