The rarest two-word phrase in American politics in 2019 is "bipartisan support," and the push to dismantle the NCAA's amateurism model now has it. After Representative Mark Walker (R-NC) introduced a bill earlier this month that would grant college athletes the rights to their name, image and likeness, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has now put the NCAA's model in his crosshairs.
Murphy's office on Thursday released, Madness: Inc.: How everyone is getting rich off college sports - except the players. It's a 15-page report that doesn't detail anything you don't already know, but it casts a wider net to clue in non-fans how the NCAA makes and spends its money, complete with visuals that, admittedly, aren't the best optics for College Sports Inc.
And, sure, you and I can talk about how market forces have pushed coaches' salaries to where they are and how facilities like Clemson's and South Carolina's and Tennessee's are necessary for recruiting, but it doesn't really matter. The audience, politicians like Sen. Murphy and Rep. Walker, may or may not care about the inner-workings of college sports but, crucially, they would have the power to change college sports tremendously by passing laws ending amateurism.
This is why I've always argued in this space it would serve the schools well in the long run to get ahead of the public's changing attitudes rather than have that change forced upon them.
“Over the last decade, there has been a gradual shift on this issue from the public, the media, the athletes, and even the courts to some extent,” Warren K. Zola, a sports business professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, told the Los Angeles Times. “People have begun to realize that some level of compensation for athletes — a level better reflecting the revenues that have blossomed within college athletics — makes sense. Legislative action is the logical next step.”
Madness, Inc. isn't a policy proposal. Instead it's an opening punch of what Murphy says will be a year-long battle against The System.
As Sen. Murphy makes his case throughout the year, he'll have the support of one of his most prominent constituents.