Congressman Seeks Investigation of College Athletics
October 21, 2011

The swelling discontent over college sports -- with scrutiny for issues ranging from improper benefits to scholarship gaps and athletic eligibility -- may soon be examined in the halls of Congress, as well. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the panel's Republican chairman asking that the committee hold hearings focusing not just on the aforementioned hot topics, but other “antitrust and due process issues.” Among them: conference realignment, limitations on scholarship durations (see related essay elsewhere on this site), National Collegiate Athletic Association bylaws regarding due process of athletes, institutional liability in the event of athletes getting injured, and the NCAA's control of athletes’ “likeness” – which critics say has allowed the association to profit unfairly from using students’ names or images in things like video games and promotions. “It has become increasingly clear to me that the combination of issues and challenges facing intercollegiate sports have reached a tipping point calling for Congressional attention,” Conyers wrote.

In the letter, Conyers acknowledged that his colleagues might hesitate to spend time on issues regarding college athletics, but argued that the “massive business” has widespread economic impact on athletes, broadcasters, fans and colleges nationwide. He also noted that to do so would not be unprecedented – the committee has previously conducted hearings on piracy of sports broadcasting rights and Bowl Championship Series antitrust issues. (Conyers invoked the latter in his appeal to examine the continuing shake-up among conferences. “The impact of major conference realignment on lower-profile sports teams, parents, and smaller and independent universities -- notably Historically Black Colleges and Universities -- are of particular concern,” he wrote. “HBCUs and other universities appear to have been relegated to difficult bargaining postures due to the recent realignments.”)

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