“Money paid to student athletes for use of their name, image, and likeness should benefit all student athletes at that institution,” Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tn.) told a Senate hearing on Tuesday. “Student athletes should not be on the payroll and treated as hired hands.”
“I do not see a good ending to allowing a few student athletes to be paid by commercial interests while most of their teammates are not,” Senator Alexander said.
“If young athletes want to be a part of a team, enjoy the undergraduate experience, learn from coaches who are among the best teachers, and be paid a full scholarship that helps them earn a degree worth $1 million during their lifetime, their earnings should benefit all student athletes at that institution. If they prefer to keep the money for themselves, let them become professionals.”
Senator Alexander made his remarks at a committee hearing he chaired today on four new state laws and more than 30 state legislative proposals that would allow commercial interests to pay student athletes for use of their name, image, and likeness.
Senator Alexander, a former President of the University of Tennessee, a former member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and United States Education Secretary, helped set a school track record at Vanderbilt and is one of the NCAA’s “100 most influential student athletes.”
He said that to avoid mass confusion, Congress should act to preempt the growing number of state laws allowing different forms of payments to athletes. “Congress should act,” he said, “but in as limited a way as possible to authorize an independent entity safe from litigation to write rules governing payments for the use of name, image, and likeness. Congress should provide aggressive oversight of that entity, rather than try to write the rules.”
Senator Alexander said that governing entity authorized to write rules should be the NCAA. “I know, I know,” the senator said. “The NCAA is controversial. So will be any entity writing rules for intercollegiate athletics. If the NCAA is not doing a good job, the college presidents who are in charge of it should reform it. Giving the job to a new entity would take forever. Giving the job to some existing entity, such as the Federal Trade Commission, without expertise and without any responsibility for higher education makes no sense.”
“Now, as to the rules the NCAA should write, here is what I believe should be the overriding principle: Money earned by student athletes for the use of their name, image, and likeness should benefit all student athletes at that institution.”
Senator Alexander concluded: “Following this principle would allow the earnings to be used for additional academic support, further study or degrees, health insurance, support for injured players or other needs. It would avoid the awkwardness of a center who earns nothing snapping the ball to a quarterback who earns $500,000 for promoting the local auto dealer. It avoids the inevitable abuses that would occur with agents and boosters becoming involved with outstanding high school athletes. It would avoid the unexpected consequences to other teams because of the impact on Title IX or the impact on existing student aid available to athletes.”
Read Chairman Alexander’s full prepared opening statement here.