Representatives Charlie Dent (R-Pennsylvania) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) have introduced the National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act (H.R. 2903) (http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th/house-bill/2903/text), in a rare bi-partisan proposal. The Act, which would halt federal funds for colleges and universities refusing to take specified measures to protect student athletes and their schools in sports and academic activities, has been proposed as an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Asserting that the NCAA has a “disturbing amount of inconsistency” with its current enforcement process, the bill would mandate NCAA transparency and expand specific measures to force the NCAA to protect student-athletes and universities. Dent further explained, “Profit and big business have trumped health, safety and educational achievements.  The time has come for the NCAA to get back to its original purpose.”

The bi-partisan legislation would restrict universities from receiving any federal funds pursuant to Title IV if they are members of athletic associations, such as the NCAA, that refuse to adopt the new rules. If the NCAA does not comply with the proposed legislation and refuse to modify existing rules, any college or university that continue to participate in NCAA competition would lose all Title IV funding, currently more than $140 billion annually.

Highlights of the bill introduced by Dent and Beatty include:

  • Mandatory annual baseline concussion tests for all college athletes participating in both contact and limited-contact sports
  • Required irrevocable four-year scholarship for athletes participating in contact/collision sports which guarantees the scholarship even in the event of loss of athletic skill or injury.  The Act defines contact/collision sports as boxing, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, rodeo, soccer and wrestling
  • A specific prohibition against any NCAA institution from implementing a policy which does not permit the payments of stipends to college athletes
  • Guarantees that all athletes and universities will have the opportunity for a formal administrative hearing prior to the implementation of any NCAA punishment for an alleged rules violation.
  • Guarantees the right for all punished parties to have at least one appeal of any proposed discipline and any other due process procedure the Secretary determines by regulation to be necessary.

Dent added that the bill would prevent the NCAA from penalizing institutions without a fair hearing. He continued, “In the case of Penn State, they would have had the benefit of an NCAA investigation. They never had one-not to mention an appeal.” Beatty previously was a senior vice president for outreach and engagement at Ohio State University. A first-term member of Congress, Beatty stressed that her interest in providing more protections for student athletes came from watching players get injured.

Dent summarized his goal with the proposed legislation as “ending the NCAA’s kangaroo courts and providing due process rights for student-athletes and member institutions”. He concluded, “t(T)hese are our kids…(M)any athletes are afraid to admit to having suffered concussions or other injuries for fear that their scholarships will not be renewed. We owe it to them to take the proper corrective action.”