NCAA president Mark Emmert and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby spent their Tuesday before Congress, getting hammered for all the wrongs of College Sports, Inc. Though the conversation at times veered into how long it takes for the NCAA to get anything done, how hard it is to get ESPN+ in rural West Virginia and how untrustworthy the NCAA establishment is, the purpose of Tuesday’s bludgeoning was to talk about the same thing Congress spends most of its time talking about: money, how it’s allocated and who controls the purse strings.
And, according to an Associated Press report that dropped Tuesday afternoon, the NCAA and the power conferences spend a lot of money making sure they get to keep all of it.
The NCAA itself spent $450,000 on lobbying — $240,000 on outside counsel and $210,000 on its in-house lobbyists — while the ACC spent $210,000, and the Big 12 spent $90,000 in the second half of 2019.
And if the ACC and Big 12 are spending six figures on lobbying, you can bet the SEC, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 paid up as well, though those figures remain dark.
That money is spent to push the establishment’s message, which is to keep the traditional power brokers in power.
“The NCAA is going to fight for the status quo,” Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, told the AP.
“The NCAA has a permanent office in D.C. They have millions of dollars they can spend on lobbying and that’a very tough thing to fight. They’re a very powerful constituency,” said David Ridpath, interim president of the Drake Group, a nonprofit group that is bankrolling the effort on the Hill to grant college athletes their name, image and likeness rights. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job in Washington despite being the little engine that could.”
Tom McMillen, head of the Division I athletics directors’ lobbying group, gave exactly the quote you’d expect him to say: “You can have all the lobbyists in the world, but it doesn’t really make a difference,” he said. “This is a complicated process, getting something done through Congress in any kind of timely fashion.”
Lobbying is a gross but, somehow, accepted part of the American political system, so it’s not surprising that a billion dollar industry would hire representatives to push its message to Congress. But that the NCAA would do that to keep other people’s money out of its labor’s pockets is just, well, it’s gross.