How Blowing Up College Sports Became a Rallying Cry for Some in Washington


Emmert, a former professor of political science, suggested it was a savvy approach, not a measure of the N.C.A.A.’s clout, for leagues to try to lobby officials who might be particularly affectionate toward their brand-name schools. Others in college sports agreed that a conference-driven lobbying strategy could certainly be good politics, but that it also reflected serious concerns about the N.C.A.A.’s influence.

“The N.C.A.A. blue disc is toxic in some quarters in Washington, D.C., but I would suggest that not all of that is fair,” said Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner, referring to the association’s logo. “The analogy with Congress is spot on: Everybody loves their congressman but hates Congress, and everybody loves their school, but they hate the N.C.A.A.”

With the N.C.A.A. sometimes proving “a problematic brand,” Bowlsby said, “we, obviously, want to have our own representation.”


That notwithstanding, the N.C.A.A. still has powerful allies in Washington. Until recently, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis R. McDonough and Vivek H. Murthy, the surgeon general, sat on the association’s board. When McDonough left the board last year, Robert M. Gates, who led the Pentagon for parts of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, took his place.

Legislators are careful not to question the personal integrity of N.C.A.A. leaders. But in a twist that many government and sports officials laughingly acknowledge, the United States Congress has wound up complaining about another organization’s sluggishness.

Some lawmakers say that the N.C.A.A.’s current proposal, which would allow students a regulated opportunity to profit off their fame, falls far short of expectations.


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