The chancellor at the University of Kansas urged a U.S. Senate subcommittee Tuesday to adopt a federal standard to guide decisions in the transitional era of college sports as student athletes secure the right to directly earn money from use of their name, image or likeness.
KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said during testimony before the Senate commerce subcommittee with jurisdiction over amateur athletics, which is chaired by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., that a patchwork of state laws could create chaos for universities competing across 50 states.
“It is clear to me that the imperative of national consistency, fairness and equity requires a federal solution,” he said. “Only a federal approach that creates a level playing field for competing athletes and universities makes sense.”
Girod said a comprehensive approach should include reasonable guardrails to protect students who seek new financial rewards related to participation in college sports. At the same time, he said, the framework ought to maintain standards of sports integrity and respect for the educational mission of college programs.
He said lawmakers should recognize 98% of student athletes don’t turn professional. Students not bound for the NFL, WNBA, MLB or NWSL do benefit from educational opportunities available to them on campus, he said.
Moran, the Manhattan Republican who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection, said Congress had an obligation to examine consequences of college athletes supplementing scholarship and other benefits received from a university by marketing their name, image and likeness.
The senator said the situation raised questions about use of third party agents, definitions of amateurism and possible elimination of athletic programs.
“College athletics teaches young men and women many values and skills that serve them throughout their life, but the most important aspect is that they are first, a student athlete,” Moran said.
The KU chancellor said a federal model ought to preserve educational access for first-generation students and underrepresented minorities as well as support gender equality in compliance with Title IX.
“No matter what solutions we pursue, there are two ironclad principles that should inform us every step of the way,” Girod said. “We must continue to prioritize what is in the best interests and welfare of our student athletes. We must preserve and protect the collegiate athletic model.”
He said national policy would transcend athletic departments to impact university instruction, research and service. College sports allegiance is a key element of student recruitment and crucial to engaging potential donors, he said.
In an interview Monday, KU basketball coach Bill Self said he was optimistic the chancellor would be able to play a role in bringing about positive change in terms of student-athlete compensation.
“It’s still early in the process and I don’t think anybody out there has the perfect answer to it,” Self said.