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SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Coach Calls For Stopping The Foul Play With March Madness

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March Madness has begun—one of the greatest traditions in sports. Alabama is proud to be home to six teams competing in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. While I’ll be rooting hard for my Auburn Tigers, I’m concerned that this may be the last March Madness as we know it.

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that student-athletes can make money, college sports have been in a tailspin.  I spent 40 years as a coach, an educator, and a mentor, and I fully support student-athletes making money. But there have to be rules—and right now there are almost no national rules for Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) endorsement contracts.

At least 39 states have passed, proposed, or drafted laws–often conflicting–on this issue. This has created an unequal playing field for universities and student-athletes. Schools in states with more restrictive NIL laws will struggle to compete against schools in states with more lax laws. The result will be a race to the bottom.

If Congress does not act, then one state—or a handful of states—will dictate the rules to the rest of the country, which is what we’ve seen happen in other areas of law.

As a result of this new landscape, college sports have turned into the Wild West, with bidding wars for the most talented athletes now starting with freshmen in high school. It will soon be impossible for any coach to build or preserve a team, knowing that his best players are likely to enter the transfer portal at the drop of a hat. Every player is now a free agent every year. This is at odds with some of the best lessons learned on the field—hard work, loyalty, and team over self.

This new age of NIL deals will also destroy the comradery between our players. Michael Jordan is considered one of the greatest of all time not just because of his God-given abilities, but because he was a leader who made his teammates better on the court. To create a positive team environment, student-athletes need to be able to trust the teammate playing next to them. That’s hard to do if you don’t know who will show up to practice tomorrow.

It gets worse. Earlier this month, Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team voted to unionize. If this idea catches on players will be able to hold their coaches hostage. We may even see players go on strike before big games—with games even being cancelled as a result. If that happens, television revenues, which are used to fund the vast majority of college sports, will tank and college athletics as we know it will be over.

We need to do something about this—and it needs to happen before the next March Madness. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and I have a solution called the Protecting Athletes, Schools, and Sports (PASS) Act. Our bill would create a single national standard for NIL contracts and require universities to honor the original scholarship made to a student athlete, regardless of their NIL deal status.

Our common-sense legislation would provide stability for student-athletes and teams by requiring a student-athlete to commit to a university for three years before becoming eligible for the transfer portal. It would also protect student-athletes by ensuring they receive health insurance for sports-related injuries for up to eight years after graduating.

The PASS Act is a bill we wrote in consultation with coaches, athletic directors, and educators across the country. It’s also a product of bipartisan compromise. It’s not my dream bill and it’s not Sen. Manchin’s dream bill either. It just sets out a few basic rules that we can all agree on. It’s a bill that could actually pass a divided Congress at a very divided time in our history.

Unfortunately, some other senators have put forward more extreme proposals that could not pass a divided Congress, and these efforts have only muddied the waters further. Some of my Democrat colleagues want student-athletes to unionize or become university employees, effectively endorsing the Dartmouth model. And these extreme proposals might not even pass the Democrat Senate—never mind the Republican House.

Let’s focus on what we all agree on and pass the PASS Act. If we don’t, then the situation will only get worse. Congress needs to act quickly and pass the PASS Act to ensure March Madness continues for generations to come.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R.-Ala., was elected to the Senate in 2020. Prior to that he spent 40-years in higher education as a college football coach, including as the head coach at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, where he coached for 11 years.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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