SBD/July 10, 2014/Colleges

Senate Commerce Committee Grills Mark Emmert Over NCAA Governance

Emmert called yesterday's Senate session a useful cattle prod
NCAA President Mark Emmert yesterday during a hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee "announced his support for what he termed 'scholarships for life,' backed the NCAA away from a controversial legal position in a concussion lawsuit and faced a barrage of criticism and sharply worded questions on a wide range of issues," according to Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who early yesterday released a report on "how colleges report, investigate and adjudicate sexual violence, blasted Emmert concerning a finding that more than 20% of schools give the athletics department oversight of cases involving athletes." U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) "wrung a 'commitment' from Emmert to address the matter," and U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), "gesturing toward the hearing room's entryway, admonished Emmert to 'walk out this door and fix that.'" Senate Commerce Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) later "ruminated on whether the committee should subpoena college presidents to appear before the committee." During questioning from U.S. Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Emmert said yesterday's session was "a useful cattle prod." He said, "It makes sure we know that the world is watching, that the Senate is watching." Emmert added he thinks the organization will "wind up in the right place in a couple of months" following NCAA governance changes. Berkowitz notes Emmert, in his opening statement, "earnestly said he supports the advent of athletes being able to receive scholarships that would enable them to complete their degrees, regardless of whether they do well after their college eligibility has ended" (USA TODAY, 7/10). In Raleigh, Dan Kane notes some senators suggested in their questioning that the effort to unionize athletes "would be harmful to college athletics programs, particularly athletes in sports that do not make money" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 7/10). In N.Y., Marc Tracy notes yesterday's hearing signals Capitol Hill "has a growing interest in weighing in on the future of college athletics" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/10).

ON THE AGENDA? The AP's Joseph White noted Emmert "listed several changes he'd like to see enacted." In addition to the "end of the standard year-to-year scholarships, he said scholarships should also cover the full cost of attending college, not just basics such as room and board." Emmert called for "better health, safety and insurance protocols and said universities must confront what he called the 'national crisis' of sexual assault." Emmert said that such changes "could come about if Division I schools decide to remake their decision-making structure in the coming weeks, giving more authority to the five biggest conferences" (AP, 7/9).
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