Power 5 Conferences Spent $350K to Lobby Against Athlete Endorsements

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2020

Greg Sankey speaks during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham-Wynfrey Hotel, Monday, July 15, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

As the debate about whether college athletes should be allowed to profit off their name, image and likeness continues to make headlines, Power Five conferences reportedly spent $350,000 on lobbying efforts in January, February and March in an effort to influence Congress. 

Ben Nuckols of the Associated Press reported the news, noting the goal is to influence Congress on potential legislation about endorsement money for athletes. 

The SEC spent more than any other conference and hired three lobbying firms for $140,000.

"It is important for the SEC to have a voice in this national dialogue," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. "We look forward to a constructive exchange of ideas about ways we can further enhance our student-athletes' educational and athletic experiences while ensuring that any future changes can be administered fairly on a national level."

In April, the NCAA announced its Board of Governors "supported rule changes to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related to and separate from athletics."

However, the NCAA said the schools themselves should not pay the student-athletes, stressing that compensation needs to be provided by third parties.

The NCAA's announcement also revealed it planned on engaging Congress to help in a number of areas, including "establishing a 'safe harbor' for the Association to provide protection against lawsuits filed for name, image and likeness rules" and "maintaining the distinction between college athletes and professional athletes."

Nuckols noted the NCAA would like Congress to enact a federal law regarding the issues so different states would not be operating under different rules.

The Pac-12 spent $50,000 on its own firm, while the ACC and Big 12 each spent $40,000 on their own firms. While the Big Ten did not hire its own dedicated lobbyist, each of the Power Five conferences spent $10,000 on the Marshall & Popp firm, led by ex-Republican congressional staffers, and $10,000 on the Subject Matter firm, led by Democrats.

Nuckols obtained a document circulated by the lobbyists that outlined the conferences' "core principles" for such compensation. He wrote they include "a requirement for 'one term of academic progress' before athletes can sign endorsement deals; a ban on athlete deals with 'advertising categories inconsistent with higher education'; and limits on who can advise athletes on third-party contracts to prevent 'unscrupulous actors.'"