NEW HAVEN, Conn. — On August 3, 2020, U.S. Senators Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal, Christopher Murphy, Kirsten Gillibrand, Ron Wyden, Mazie Hirono, and Kamala Harris issued a “College Athletes Bill of Rights” statement that sought to advance justice and opportunity for college athletes and promised future legislation to realize their position. On August 13, they were joined by Senators Sanders, Van Hollen, and Schatz. The Drake Group applauds the initiative and urges Congress to act now to give college athletes full outside employment and NIL rights, a strong voice in the governance of college sports, comprehensive coverage for medical costs related to athletic injuries, protection from abusive coaches, mandated five-year athletic scholarships and other academic protections to improve educational outcomes.
Donna Lopiano, Ph.D., President of The Drake Group, stated, “The NCAA has acted as an effective trade association for its members enabling too many higher education institutions to economically and educationally exploit college athletes in order to increase athletics program revenues, line the pockets of coaches and administrators with excessive six and seven-figure salaries, and build lavish facilities to better enable coaches to attract impressionable 17-year old recruits. The Drake Group believes the NCAA’s consistent failure to protect the health, well-being, and education of college athletes and ineptitude with regard to punishing institutions that commit even the most blatant academic fraud and safety omissions should not be allowed to continue. Only Congress has the power to intervene.”
The Drake Group proposes a College Athletes Rights and Protection Act (CARPA) to accomplish all of the promises made in the “College Athletes Bill of Rights.” Using the carrot of institutions continuing to receive funding under the Higher Education Act of 1965 ($130 billion annually in federal loans and grants in 2019), the proposed bill includes the following mandates:
- Granting full outside employment and NIL rights for enrolled college athletes overseen by an independent NIL Commission, rather than the NCAA;
- Establishing a private National College Athlete Medical Trust Fund with an independent Board of Directors charged with implementing a long-term athlete disability insurance program that addresses the latent medical cost impact of brain trauma or other athletics injuries that do not manifest before the end of enrolled athlete basic athletic injury insurance policy coverage;
- Allowing athletes and institutions to enter into licensing arrangements with third parties conditioned on proceeds being donated to the National College Athlete Medical Trust Fund and further funding the trust with assessments derived from gross annual media rights fees from national collegiate championships, conference championships, regular season, and special events;
- Requiring national athletic governance associations to adopt and enforce consensus statements on standards of health care and coaches’ codes of conduct as membership obligations and to initiate investigations of athlete deaths by independent panels of medical experts;
- Guaranteeing athletic scholarships for five years or until graduation, whichever occurs first;
- Permitting college athletes to transfer to other institutions without athletic participation ineligibility;
- Closing the loopholes in rules that limit the athletics-related time demands of coaches and creating limits on classes missed to ensure college athletes have the time to study and for adequate sleep;
- Requiring tenured faculty oversight and transparent reporting of college athlete educational outcomes;
- Providing a governance association athlete welfare advocate at no cost to the athlete to provide legal advice on the application of association rules and due process rights;
- Requiring that thirty percent of any national association’s independent governing board of directors be former athletes appointed by currently enrolled athletes;
- Prohibiting excessive employee compensation and construction of lavish athletes-only facilities; and
- Requiring annual reports to Congress electronically available to the general public.
Further, CARPA proposes that a Congressional Commission be established to complete a comprehensive two-year study of higher education integrity issues not addressed by the proposed bill – supporting H.R. 5528, a bipartisan bill filed in the House by Representatives Donna Shalala and Ross Spano.