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NCAA President calls for 'scholarships for life'

By Joseph White

WASHINGTON (AP) - NCAA President Mark Emmert told a Senate committee Wednesday he supports "scholarships for life" and other reforms in how athletes are treated, then did such a good job of casting himself as a powerless figurehead that one senator told him: "I can't tell whether you're in charge or whether you're a minion."

Emmert faced a skeptical Senate Commerce Committee and said he feels college sports "works extremely well for the vast majority" and the overall current model of amateurism should be preserved.

But he listed several changes he'd like to see enacted.

In addition to the end of the standard year-to-year scholarships, he said scholarships should also cover the full cost of attending college, not just basics such as room and board.

He also called for better health, safety and insurance protocols and said universities must confront what he called the "national crisis" of sexual assault.

Emmert said such changes could come about if Division I schools decide to remake their decision-making structure in the coming weeks, giving more authority to the five biggest conferences.

He reiterated that the schools themselves are in charge of the rules and emphasized the challenge of creating a consensus among college presidents, coaches and athletic directors.

That led to sharp words from Sen. Claire McCaskill, who leveled the "minion" statement and added: "If you're merely a monetary pass-through, why should you even exist?"

The Missouri Democrat was particularly concerned with research that showed a significant percentage of universities allow athletic departments to handle sexual assault investigations of athletes.

Emmert said he was "equally surprised and dismayed by" McCaskill's numbers and that he would work to put an end to the apparent conflict of interest.

The hearing came as the NCAA faces pressure from multiple fronts to reform how athletes are treated and compensated.

The organization is awaiting a judge's ruling following a three-week trial in Oakland, California, in which former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and others are seeking a share of revenues from the use of their names, images and likenesses in broadcasts and videogames.

Also, former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter is leading a push to form the first union for college athletes.

Emmert testified in the O'Bannon trial, where he opposed any effort to pay players because it would destroy the bedrock of amateurism on which college sports is based.

There have been moves, however, to pay more attention to the athlete's concerns. Emmert noted that multiyear scholarships were recently reinstated after being banned for close to four decades. The Big Ten last month came in support of guaranteed four-year scholarships and improved medical coverage for athletes.

Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller took a bigger view during the hearing, questioning whether the amateur model is sustainable. He told Emmert: "I think I am just very skeptical that the NCAA can ever live up to the lofty mission that you constantly talk about."

"I don't see how a multibillion dollar commercial enterprise can merely be an amateur pursuit," the West Virginia Democrat said. "I don't see how the NCAA will ever be capable of truly making a safe, quality educational experience for students their No. 1 priority."

Rockefeller said he doesn't plan to drop the issue. He dropped veiled threats of using subpoena power and the committee's special investigation unit should the Democrats retain control of the Senate should the NCAA not move forward with reforms.

Near the end of the hearing, which lasted just under three hours, Rockefeller said too much of the hearing was conducted in "self-protection mode."

"My real feeling from this hearing," Rockefeller said, "is that we haven't accomplished much."

Emmert declined an invitation from Rockefeller to make a concluding statement. After the hearing, Emmert deflected questions from reporters while being led to a freight elevator to leave the building.

Join the discussion

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cfinde July 10 2014 at 12:34 AM

The athletic departments should be self sustaining. NOT ONE PENNY should flow from the tuition students pay to attend the university. Let the athletic departments get money from ticket sales and NOT activity fees that students are forced to pay whether or not they attend a single sport. Allow for immediate dismissal from the team for any sexual assault and immediate expulsion from the university. Johnny Mansiel will NEVER be worth the trouble he will cause in the future.

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jdsept cfinde July 10 2014 at 12:01 PM

1) University students are allowed to use many of the athletic dept. facilities. such a swimming pools, basketball courts, showers etc and the universities many times run leagues for students use, so why shouldn't they pay some fees? Students and taxpayers fund the scholarships of many non profit making students, band members, some science majors etc. Jocks bring in tons of alumni money to schools while non known students or band members bring in how much? Jocks bring a huge sense of community life to universities. Try being at Notre Dame Shouldn't one be proven guilty before being dismissed? Remember the supposed Duke lacrosse assaults which didn't actually happen? Johnny "Football" made tons of money for A & M and was well worth the money as Ray Lewis (probable murder) made tons of money for the NFL. Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler who makes Johnny " Football" look like a little league party-boy made tons of money for the Jets and Raiders. Namath made the AFC an equal to the old NFL.

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jdsept cfinde July 10 2014 at 12:15 PM

Also many universities can not be successful as they do not reside in the big money making arenas of college sports but the lower down levels. That small college football game say like a Trinity-Wesleyan game with 3000 fans and neve ron TV is a simportant to student life a sthat Notre Dame-USC Game with 100,000 fans and on national TV. Also add in the fact of Title 9 where for every male scholarship, many which turn a profit for universities, one must be offered to a female whose sports usually turn little profit.

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tomkota July 10 2014 at 11:35 AM


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3 replies
WallOfVoodoo July 10 2014 at 10:15 AM

It does not matter what the profession.
The ones on the top usually cheat, distort and confuse to keep their jobs. Even if it means perpetrating it on young children(teachers unions) or school athletics(NCAA).

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jdsept WallOfVoodoo July 10 2014 at 12:06 PM

Never did much with your life did YOU? You know those great teachers also belong to the unions. Those jocks who do much for their community, Derek Jeter for example or the NFL player who died serving in our military in Afghanistan, don't have to confuse, cheat or distort to be successful. Many keep their jobs and reach the top because they are good. Obviously you have been successful at little and never reached near the top at anything. You comment is ignorant as all Irish are drunks, all Italians are Mafia or all blacks steal. IGNORANT.

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jwiegand1 July 10 2014 at 12:00 PM

I've the solution, all colleges drop the athletic programs and let these kids for Minor League teams that pay them to play. Let the NBA and NFL support these teams. Then the kids that want to go to College can and those who want to be pro's can. If not that then the NCAA and all the co;;eges should be paying to support the local high school programs, not the local taxpayers.

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eddbetsworth July 10 2014 at 12:06 PM

I say let's make college sports like pro sports. Pay them. Have them sign contracts with provisions. Put a cap limit on what universities can spend. Then we can end the false title of 'amateur' sports.

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kentblackdog July 10 2014 at 12:11 PM

Could not help but notice, the NCCA, the Colleges, the departments, the students-------------IT IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

Solution-take the money OUT of it, and let eveyone fend for themsleves--------------let the pain be felt by all invoved

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runswthscisors40 July 10 2014 at 2:08 PM

Want that free education?, just tell them you're an "undocumented immigrant refugee"......................

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