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Mitt Romney says if NCAA doesn’t move on college athlete pay, Congress will

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, meets with local officials and health experts about anti-vaping efforts during a roundtable discussion at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, meets with local officials and health experts about anti-vaping efforts during a roundtable discussion at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney, who earlier this month told the NCAA, “We’re coming for you,” applauded its board of governors for voting to allow amateur athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

But the Utah Republican said there is more work to be done, including Congress stepping in to reform college sports.

Given California’s Fair Pay for Play legislation and the NCAA being open to the idea of compensation for college athletes suggests there’s going to be some movement on the issue, Romney said Wednesday on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

“If not, why I think Congress will act to make some movement because I think we recognize it’s just not fair to have these athletes giving the kind of time they give to their sport and not receiving any kind of compensation or remuneration particularly at a time where they come from very, very poor families in many cases,” he said.

The NCAA wants to see the changes in place no later than January 2021.

Romney, who led the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, said he hopes the NCAA recognizes that the idea of using name, image and likeness as a way to compensate athletes could lead to some very unusual circumstances that need to be avoided.

College sports can’t have a “couple of athletes on campus driving around in Ferraris while everybody else is basically having a hard time making ends meet,” Romney said. There also can’t be a handful of schools in major markets or with big sports followings that become like a “honey pot” for the best athletes, “then you kill collegiate sports,” he said.

“There needs to be some adjustment to the whole name, image, likeness approach to make sure that we don’t create those problems,” he said.

On Tuesday, Romney and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, issued a joint press release, saying the NCAA recognizes change is coming, and that it has to adapt its rules to catch up with the times.

Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Bracken El-Bakri (93) celebrates in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. BYU won 30-27 in overtime.
Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Bracken El-Bakri (93) celebrates in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. BYU won 30-27 in overtime.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Romney and Murphy said they’ll review the NCAA’s next steps and work on ways Congress can reform college sports.

“We need to correct the inequities between what college coaches and the institutions make versus what the athletes receive and protect college athletes’ health and educational opportunities,” the senators said.

Murphy has released two reports focused on college athletes’ compensation and academic rights in a series called Madness Inc.

The first report, “March Madness,” was released in March and looked at the profits of college sports and how the NCAA enriches nearly every entity but the athletes themselves. The report found that across the 65 Power Five conference schools, only 12% of all revenue goes toward student aid and scholarships, while 16% goes to coaches’ salaries.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., questions Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during a hearing to review the Fiscal Year 2019 funding request and budget justification for the U.S. Department of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 5, 2018.
Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

The second report released in July, “How Colleges Keep Athletes on the Field and Out of the Classroom,” studies the ways in which colleges fail to provide athletes an education.

At a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill earlier this month, Romney said he plans to introduce legislation to help college athletes.

“We’re coming for you. We’re coming to help these young athletes in the future, and the athletes of today, make sure that they don’t have to sacrifice their time and sacrifice, in many cases, their bodies without being fairly compensated,” Romney said, according to The News & Observer, based in Raleigh, North Carolina.