Beatty renews push in Congress for student-athlete protection bill

Jessica Wehrman The Columbus Dispatch  •  Friday June 12, 2015 5:54 AM
WASHINGTON — A central Ohio lawmaker renewed her push on Thursday to reform the NCAA.

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Congresswoman Joyce Beatty

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, and Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., reintroduced a bill that would withhold federal funding from colleges and universities that failed to adequately protect student-athletes.

Their proposal would require institutions to conduct annual baseline concussion testing of every student-athlete who participates in a contact or limited-contact sport before allowing the student to participate in activities.

It would require the NCAA to provide due process to student-athletes and member institutions during investigations, giving students a minimum of a hearing and one appeal.

It would require schools to offer four-year scholarships for athletes participating in contact or collision sports, lest a student be injured in his or her first year and lose his or her scholarship completely.

And — new this year — it would establish a presidential commission on intercollegiate athletics to review and report on the interaction of athletics and academics, the financing of intercollegiate athletics and other issues related to student athletes.

The bill was originally introduced in 2013 and saw a measure of success last year when the Big Ten announced it would adopt one of the proposed reforms by allowing student-athletes offered scholarships to a member institution to keep those scholarships for four years as long as they remained members in good standing with the community, the university and the athletic department.

Some 1,100 colleges and universities participate in NCAA Division I, II and III sports. The association provides more than $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships each year, according to the NCAA website.

Dent and Beatty were joined this year by Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., who were less measured in their assessment of the college sports organization.

Rush called the organization “nothing but a cabal” that is “profiteering at the expense of our students and the expense of the education of our students.”

Katko, meanwhile, called it a “corporate colossus.”

But Beatty, a former Ohio State University official, said her interest lies more in due process and health.

“I think we have a responsibility to make sure of the health and safety and due process of these children — and they are just that — when they are in college,” she said.

The NCAA declined to comment on the bill.

jwehrman@dispatch.com

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