Senate committee going hard after NCAA in Wednesday hearing

The Senate Commerce Committee pretty much laid out its plan of attack vs. the NCAA during Wednesday's hearing titled "Promoting the Well-Being of Academic Sucess of College Athletes."

The committee sent out a release late Tuesday laying out its line of questioning. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller, IV, will chair the hearing. NCAA president Mark Emmert is one of the witnesses.

Per the release: "The hearing will explore how the National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] is fulfilling its stated mission 'to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.' The hearing will also examine whether the commercial operation of college athletics is unfairly exploiting the talents and services of college athletes. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has jurisdiction over sports ...

"Critics of the [NCAA] and intercollegiate athletics have contended that the NCAA and its member schools are not carrying out their mission to protect and promote the well-being of college athletes, and that reports of exploitation of athletes by colleges and universities have become commonplace.

"In response to these concerns, Chairman Rockefeller, along with Commerce Committee Members Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), wrote the NCAA earlier this year to ask about the organization’s policies and its oversight of member institutions so that student athletes can be protected from potential exploitation.

"Tomorrow’s hearing will build on these efforts and provide a forum to evaluate how the NCAA and colleges and universities can best protect athletes’ health, safety and financial well-being, while also fostering and promoting athletes’ academic achievement.  

"In recent years, there have been frequent media reports of academic fraud and stories of former college athletes who have nothing to show for their experience after their playing days are over. College athletes are often left vulnerable when things go wrong, including if they are injured during play. Unlike the Olympics, another multibillion-dollar sporting venture predicated on the notion of amateurism, NCAA-sanctioned college sports afford their athletes little, if any, due process and prohibit them from any financial compensation outside of athletic scholarships that cover tuition and fees, room and board, and required books.

"Moreover, few college athletes receive four-year scholarships, and member schools are free to not renew their athletic scholarships for whatever reason. These concerns and others have reinforced the notion that athletic departments are primarily interested in producing winning programs rather than participating in a collective effort to educate young men and women."        

"For Chairman Rockefeller and other critics of the NCAA, another major concern has been the NCAA’s opaqueness when it comes to disclosing its finances. Currently, the NCAA does not disclose full financial information about its member schools’ athletic programs.

"At the same time, colleges and universities are spending increasingly more on coaches’ salaries, facilities, and other related non-academic expenses with little accountability. Consequently, it is difficult to determine whether member schools are using their resources in a manner that is, in fact, academically beneficial to student-athletes and the student body at large.

"The Knight Commission has repeatedly called for full disclosure of member institutions’ athletic finances, though accountability remains elusive. Further, the Knight Commission has urged the NCAA to instead make publicly available and accessible the full Revenues and Expenses of Division I Intercollegiate Athletics Programs Report, which are standardized reports already used by the NCAA. The NCAA has said that any decision to make the report publicly available would be dependent on the approval of its member schools.

A couple of things: Comparing the Olympic model to NCAA amateurism probably isn't fair. Olympians are allowed to earn money for their training and collect cash and awards from their countries as rewards. In that sense, they are at-least semi-professional. While the NCAA modeling has been unraveling in recent years, it is still based on strict amateurism without pay.

Also, this line deserves scrutiny, "few college athletes receive four-year scholarships, and member schools are free to not renew their athletic scholarships for whatever reason." Schools have the option of providing four-year guaranteed scholarships. Schools increasingly are as evidenced by recent announcements at Indiana and USC. It's true that scholarships are year-to-year but that loophole is expected to closed in the upcoming autonomy implementation.  

“This hearing will explore whether the NCAA is fulfilling its mission," Rockefeller said. "We still hear too many reports of fraudulent academics, and too many tragic stories of former college athletes who have absolutely nothing to show for the services they provided to their schools – services that generated millions upon millions of dollars." 

Other witnesses include:

-- Taylor Branch, author and historian.

--Richard Southall, associate professor, Department of Sport and Entertainment Management, Director, College Sport Research Institute, University of South Carolina.

--Myron Rolle, student, Florida State College of Medicine, former college football player, Florida State.

--Devon Jahmai Ramsay, former college football player, University of North Carolina.

--Bill Bradshaw, former AD, Temple.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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