For 11th time, Capitol Hill to hold NIL legislative hearing

On3 imageby:Pete Nakos01/10/24


Andy Staples Explaining Letter Sent From NCAA President Charlie Baker | 12.05.23

Speaking to media members on Tuesday, less than 12 hours after winning the national championship, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh called for athletes to earn a share of the revenue they help produce.

The College Football Playoff championship reeled in 25 million viewers Monday night as the nation saw the Wolverines win their first national title since a shared title in 1997. Harbaugh has used his platform for nearly two years to call for athletes to earn more than just NIL deals. He took a step further, too, calling for NCAA athletes to unionize.

Surely, his vocal push for the NCAA to allow players to earn a share of the pie will be discussed next week on Capitol Hill. The House Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce will hold a hearing on NIL and college sports on Jan. 18, sources tell On3.

“They’re maximizing every single revenue source, but they’re not sharing with the talent,” Harbaugh said on Tuesday in Houston.

Next Thursday will mark the 11th Congressional hearing to discuss NIL since 2020. Plus, it’s the NCAA’s first date with elected officials since Charlie Baker released a letter to his membership that outlined creating a subdivision of Division I that affords more freedom to craft policies and enables them to compensate athletes in innovative and consequential ways.

Florida Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who has become one of the most vital figures in the fight for NIL reform on Capitol Hill, chairs the subcommittee. The Florida representative organized March’s legislative hearing and has crafted his own NIL bill, the Fairness, Accountability, and Integrity in Representation (FAIR) of College Sports Act, which has been revised multiple times since it was first released in May.

All of this will come within a week of the NCAA Convention, where the Board of Directors could task the NCAA Division I Council with formulating recommendations related to Baker’s reform proposal. NIL legislation is also set to be voted on at the convention in Phoenix, including strict disclosure requirements for current and prospective athletes and language that would allow NIL collectives to be subject to disassociation with an institution.

Despite the push for revenue sharing and the NCAA feeling pressure from outside legal battles, next week’s hearing will also focus on placing NIL guidelines. At October’s hearing on NIL, Baker, Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick spent much of their time making a case for why Congress needs to intervene, specifically in ensuring athletes are not classified as employees.

On the NCAA’s wishlist since this past spring has been a registry of NIL deals, preemption of state laws, a certification process for agents and a uniform NIL standard.

“The NCAA is making changes but there are elements outside the association’s control and that’s why there is an opportunity to partner with lawmakers,” Baker told On3 in December. “Right now, more than 30 states have introduced or implemented state laws that have different NIL rules. Only Congress can address that challenge and help set a national standard.”

Examining the NCAA’s aggressive push for federal NIL laws

Will NIL legislation be pushed through Congress?

Sen. Lindsey Graham weighed in on the NCAA’s fight for NIL legislation at October’s hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Republican from South Carolina described college sports as chaos, citing how every Utah scholarship player is receiving the keys to a new truck, which runs on six-month leases and hinges on athlete’s enrollment. 

“Between the portal and NIL, college football is in absolute chaos,” Graham said at the time.

Graham’s opening remarks at the time were clear: Much more is at stake around the world than the NCAA’s future. Plus, a presidential election is inching closer and closer with the primary season nearly here.

Over the past six weeks, the transfer portal has churned and dominated college football headlines. The NCAA has yet to enforce recruiting inducements but the organization believes federal legislation will strengthen its ability to govern. Baker has worked to not just rely on Congress, with his framework for a new version of college sports evidence. He’s been applauded by his peers for lobbying lawmakers for legislation, too.

Will Thursday’s hearing focus on the need for restrictions and guidelines? Or will it focus on Baker’s recent proposal and revenue sharing?

“To me, Congress has to be the vehicle unless there are other protections given to the NCAA to put a model together,” Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork told On3 in November. “In my mind, we have protected amateurism for way too long. We held athletes back from real NIL opportunities when it would have been much simpler.

“Just think if we would allow video game interaction or allowed our athletes to be on a poster promoting the schedule and had the bank sponsor be able to be on the poster along with the athletes? We resisted the cost of attendance for years and years because of competitive equity.”