Tuberville In the News: The Hill: Manchin and Tuberville unveil bill making sweeping changes to college sports

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) unveiled legislation Tuesday that would establish a national standard for the handling of college athletes’ name, image and likeness (NIL), two years after the Supreme Court decided the NCAA’s rules restricting certain student-athlete compensation were illegal.

The “Protecting Athletes, Schools and Sports Act” would require that collectives and boosters be affiliated with a college or school, prohibit inducements and give the NCAA the authority to prohibit certain NIL agreements, including those that would “involve alcohol, drugs, or conflict with existing school and conference licenses.” 

The NCAA would also have oversight over NIL activities and the authority to investigate them. The legislation also empowers the Federal Trade Commission, allowing the NCAA to report violations to the FTC.

It would also make changes to the transfer portal by requiring athletes to complete the first three years of academic eligibility before being allowed to transfer without penalty, with a few exceptions, according to a press release. 

The legislation would require four-year schools and colleges to offer health insurance to athletes who are uninsured for eight years after they graduate. Institutions whose athletics departments generate a certain revenue threshold would be required to pay out-of-pocket expenses. If the institution makes more than $20 million in athletics revenue, it would be required to pay expenses for two years; if it makes more than $50 million, it would be required to pay four years. 

Manchin, a former West Virginia University football player, and Tuberville, the former head football coach at Auburn University, said the legislation is a result of a years-long collaborative process during which time they heard from a wide range of stakeholders. 

“As a former college athlete, I know how important sports are to gaining valuable life skills and opening doors of opportunity. However, in recent years, we have faced a rapidly evolving NIL landscape without guidelines to navigate it, which jeopardizes the health of the players and the educational mission of colleges and universities,” Manchin wrote in the press release.

“Our bipartisan legislation strikes a balance between protecting the rights of student-athletes and maintaining the integrity of college sports. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to consider this commonsense legislation as a way to level the playing field in college athletics,” he added.

“Student athletes should be able to take advantage of NIL promotional activities without impacting their ability to play collegiate sports,” Tuberville wrote in the release. “But we need to ensure the integrity of our higher education system, remain focused on education, and keep the playing field level. Our legislation with Senator Manchin will set basic rules nationwide, protect our student-athletes, and keep NIL activities from ending college sports as we know it.”

The pair of senators included statements praising the legislation from NCAA President Charlie Baker, the Big 12 Conference, the Southeastern Conference and from presidents of universities to which they were connected.  

Last week, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) also introduced draft legislation to tackle college athletics. It is similar to Manchin and Tuberville’s bill, but it also establishes a third-party entity to serve as the hub, rulemaker, investigator and enforcer of best practices and rules relating to student-athletes’ rights.