NCAA President Urges Congress to Address Employment Status of College Athletes


Summary: NCAA President Charlie Baker emphasizes the need for federal legislation to determine the employment status of college athletes during a Senate hearing. The focus shifts from athlete compensation to the possibility of athletes being deemed employees of their schools. Various reforms by the NCAA are highlighted, including long-term health insurance, degree completion funds, and scholarship protections. Baker also mentions the NCAA’s progress in creating regulations for name, image, and likeness compensation deals. Legal threats to the collegiate model and the potential for revenue sharing are discussed. Baker advocates for granting student-athletes special status as non-employees while ensuring enhanced benefits. Testimonies from Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick offer additional perspectives on the matter.

During a Senate hearing, NCAA President Charlie Baker shifts the focus of college sports’ need for federal legislation away from regulating athlete compensation and towards addressing the possibility of athletes being considered employees of their schools. In his opening statement, Baker acknowledges that college sports are in need of change and highlights recent reforms by the NCAA, such as providing long-term health insurance for athletes, degree completion funds for up to 10 years, and scholarship protections.

Baker also informs the committee that the NCAA is working on its own regulations for name, image, and likeness (NIL) compensation deals for athletes. This comes after efforts to seek help from Congress for a federal law to regulate NIL compensation, as the NCAA lifted its ban on NIL payments in 2021. While several bills have been introduced, none have gained significant traction.

However, concerns are rising regarding potential legal threats to the collegiate model. These threats could result in schools and conferences that participate in the NCAA’s highest levels being required to share a portion of the billions in media rights revenue with football and basketball players whose sports contribute to those contracts. To address this, Baker suggests that current regulatory guidance be codified into law, granting student-athletes special status as non-employees. Baker emphasizes that athlete representatives from all three NCAA divisions have expressed their desire not to be employees of their schools.

The hearing also includes perspectives from other witnesses. Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti, who recently assumed the position after a career in television and Major League Baseball, states that his schools are open to providing even more benefits to athletes. Testifying in written form, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick proposes that Congress consider a more radical approach by establishing a system in which athletes can negotiate terms and conditions of athletic participation with conferences.

Tags: NCAA, college athletes, federal legislation, employment status, athlete compensation, reforms, name image and likeness, collegiate model, revenue sharing, student-athletes