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NCAA Statement on Improving Student-Athlete Experience

Last week the United States District Court in Northern California reaffirmed the value of the college system of athletics and the NCAA’s approach of tethering benefits to education.  Rep. Walker has made clear in his comments that – like the judge in California – he too has no desire to convert college athletics into professional sports. We applaud Judge Wilken and Walker for validating the Supreme Court’s 1984 endorsement of the revered tradition of amateurism in college sports and declaration that “in order to preserve the character and quality of the (college sports), athletes must not be paid, must be required to attend class and the like.”

Further, although we differ in the appropriate approach, we share their interest in improving the student-athlete experience for those who choose to attend college.

The NCAA is a member association whose more than 1,100 colleges, universities, and conferences set policy and implement reform. Efforts to strengthen rules to benefit student-athletes are continually underway, including reform measures such as permitting guaranteed, multiyear athletics scholarships that also cover the full cost of attendance for college. This and countless other student athlete reforms discussed with Walker make clear that the Association is properly positioned to continue to make these changes.

In addition, the federal appellate court in the O’Bannon v. NCAA matter already established that the cost of a student-athlete’s attendance is the appropriate limit in compensating student-athletes for their athletic ability and for any name, image or likeness that are a part of their participation in college athletics.

This bill is unnecessary and may benefit only a small number of student-athletes and cause unintended consequences and negatively impact opportunities for all other college athletes. This is critical to keep in mind because the NCAA offers a unique model that creates opportunities for academic and athletic achievement to nearly 500,000 student-athletes across 24 sports each year. 

The NCAA is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that supports other exempt organizations by providing almost a billion dollars annually to the higher education community through payments and programming. As such, NCAA member-made rules are essential to preserving college sports in the United States, which are separate and distinct from professional sports.