House committee to hold NIL rights hearing, first time under Charlie Baker's NCAA

On3 imageby:Pete Nakos03/14/23


The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on NIL rights on March 29, a few days before the men’s and women’s Final Four.

The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The meeting has been dubbed “Taking the Buzzer Beater to the Bank: Protecting College Athletes’ NIL Dealmaking Rights.” 

In a time when college administrators continue to pressure Capitol Hill for reform of name, image and likeness, the committee will provide the platform for discussion on the topic. Charlie Baker took over as NCAA president March 1. This will be college athletics’ governing body’s first stop in Washington, D.C., under his watch.

The spokesman did not provide any details on who might be asked to testify. Speaking with the IndyStar this week, Baker said his phone has been “buzzing all the time with people who got my number from who knows where, calling me to fill me in on all the things I needed to fix in my first month.”

Two Republicans will lead the hearing. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington is the committee chair. Florida’s Gus Bilirakis will assist Rodgers; he chairs the subcommittee of Innovation, Data and Commerce.

“Athletes and students should have every opportunity to succeed in life and in the sport they’re passionate about,” Rodgers and Bilirakis said in a joint statement. “… Given that March Madness is upon us, we look forward to holding this timely hearing and reigniting discussions on how we can protect the rights of young athletes across the country.” 

Bilirakis has become a well-known figure in NCAA circles since taking over the consumer subcommittee. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) is the chair of the same subcommittee at the Senate level. The last time the NCAA had a date on the Hill was in 2021, when both the House and Senate held hearings on the future of college sports. Neither produced any results.

NCAA not making progress on Capitol Hill through legislation

Since the inception of name, image and likeness in July 2021, a number of bills aimed to reform college athletics have been proposed. They did not surface without significant pressure from the NCAA ranks, though. Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey met with U.S. Senators in May. The trip was followed by every Power 5 commissioner putting pressure on legislators to make a move during conference media days this past summer.

Five senators announced plans to reintroduce the Athlete Bill of Rights in Congress in August, led by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Their bill includes health, wellness and safety standards.

U.S. Senators Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sent letters to 30 collectives asking for feedback as part of their process of drafting bipartisan federal legislation related to NIL.

And U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) reintroduced a bill aimed at curtailing the impact NIL has made in recruiting earlier this month. Most important, that bill prohibits former student-athletes from retroactively suing over NIL. The legislation also states athletes would not be considered employees. And then there’s the latest piece of legislation, introduced at the end of September, which would curtail tax-deductible collectives. 

Where NIL legislation goes from here is a major question. Since the midterm elections, there has been close to no movement. Many Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on much of the language that has been introduced in these bills.