Campus News

Chancellor Blank stands with NCAA amateurism at NIL congressional hearing

Image By: Dana Brandt

On Tuesday, Chancellor Rebecca Blank testified on name, image and likeness (NIL) before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. 

In preparing to testify, Blank contributed to a reiteration of the need for federal NIL legislation. She did, however, ask that legislation include enough “guardrails and restrictions” to maintain amateurism within the NCAA.

Blank discussed some of the key factors that the NCAA and PowerFive conference request from Congress in a potential law. These include passing federal legislation before July 2021 when state laws on the subject go into effect, separating NIL considerations from recruiting, implementing an antitrust exemption for the NCAA to enforce the law, avoiding pay-for-play situations and defining the fact that student-athletes are not employees of their schools. 

“The business model for college athletics is greatly misunderstood by the public,” said Blank in a written testimony. “We’re not running sports to primarily make money.”

“At the University of Wisconsin, only football and men’s basketball are revenue-generating sports. Our other 21 sports cost more money than they generate. But the value of our academic program is the broad opportunities it provides for students with many skills to compete. If we had to spend all of our revenue in only our two revenue-producing sports, I’m not sure we’d choose to run an athletic program at UW,” stated Blank upon discussing the corporate model. 

Blank noted that an unchecked athlete-compensation model could adversely impact Olympic sports that do not generate revenue for universities such as UW-Madison.

Additionally, she claims that student athletes are given a “generous package” of benefits to begin with. A full scholarship package at UW-Madison includes more than $59,000 for in- state students and practically $87,000 for out-of-state students. Athletes are also offered advanced medical care, unlimited meals and other campus resources — that are largely inaccessible to the average student.

“The main benefit these students take away is their educational degree. It’s not about coming here to earn money and be an employee,” Blank said when responding to a question from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, about hypothetical NIL profit limits and whether they could assist the effectiveness of a potential law. 

Senators’ responses to the request for federal NIL law varied. 

“I think it's a terrible, rotten, no-good idea to federalize college sports,” stated Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. “The NCAA is particularly poised to propagate nationwide rules because losing membership in the NCAA is a significant cudgel to enforce a nationwide rule on name, image and likeness.”

Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Connecticut, argued that enacting a federal law which allows college athletes to gain from NIL agreements is equitable considering most players are unable to play professionally directly after high school.

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