As leaders lobby, NCAA searches for ways to rein in boosters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The latest lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill by college sports leaders come as the NCAA tries to rein in booster organizations funding questionable sponsorship deals for athletes for use of their names, images and likenesses.

The commissioners of the Southeastern and Pac-12 conferences were in Washington on Thursday, meeting with lawmakers to discuss the need for federal legislation to help colleges regulate how athletes can be paid for endorsement deals.

Greg Sankey of the SEC and George Kliavkoff of the Pac-12 met with politicians from both sides of aisle, including Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Kliavkoff has previously worked with Cantwell.

“I appreciate today’s opportunity for conversation and dialogue with members of Congress,” Sankey said in a statement. “As we have observed activity emerge that is very different from original ideas around Name, Image and Likeness, it is important we continue to pursue a national NIL structure to support the thousands of opportunities made available for young people through intercollegiate athletics programs across the country.”

The two commissioners were joined by Olympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland. Part of the pitch to lawmakers for giving college sports some antitrust protection is that moving to a more professional model for revenue-generating sports such as football and men’s basketball would lead to fewer collegiate opportunities for Olympic sport athletes.

The meeting comes about a week after oft-criticized NCAA President Mark Emmert announced he would be stepping down from his position by the summer of 2023.

“NCAA President Mark Emmert’s resignation is one of many necessary structural changes that will enable the NCAA to support our student-athletes,” Blackburn said in a statement. “During my meeting with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and others today, I continued to push for the accountability and fairness measures our student-athletes deserve.”

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