AP Exclusive: NCAA, 2 conferences spend $750,000 on lobbying

FILE - In this April 4, 2019, file photo, NCAA President Mark Emmert answers questions at a news conference at the Final Four college basketball tournament in Minneapolis. Emmert and other college sports leaders say they are concerned about allowing college athletes to enter the free market with no restrictions on how and by whom they can be paid for endorsements. (AP Photo/Matt York, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Congress considers whether to allow college athletes to receive endorsement money, the NCAA and its allies spent at least $750,000 last year lobbying lawmakers to shape any reforms to the organization's liking.

The NCAA last fall said it would allow athletes to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness” and is crafting rules to put in place for its 1,100 member schools. But the organization has turned to Congress to step in as more and more states follow the lead of California, where a law set to take effect in 2023 clears the way for athletes to earn endorsement money.

Organizations representing athletes have no paid lobbyists, leading to concern among some reform advocates that the deep-pocketed NCAA is shaping the debate. The NCAA’s pressure campaign comes as the Senate prepares for a committee hearing Tuesday on player compensation.

“The NCAA is going to fight for the status quo,” said Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association.

Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican who introduced a bill last spring that would guarantee players the right to earn money from their name, image and likeness, told The Associated Press “there’s no question” the NCAA’s lobbying has been effective.

“The NCAA is already at a position of power,” Walker said. “Otherwise you would have seen progress. ... There’s been little to nothing done in this arena, and had the student-athlete had proper representation on the federal level, we’d be much further down this path than we are.”

The NCAA spent $450,000 last year on lobbying, according to disclosure forms reviewed by the AP. Of that total, $240,000 went to an outside firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, and $210,000 went to its in-house lobbyists. That’s the most the organization has spent on lobbying in any year since 2014. And it got some help from two of the Power Five conferences.

The Atlantic Coast Conference hired lobbyists last year for the first time, giving at least $210,000 to the law firm DLA Piper and another lobbyist, Tom Korologos, to influence Congress on “legislative and regulatory proposals affecting intercollegiate athletes,” disclosure forms show.