A congressional debate over NIL legislation reportedly turned into a quasi-small school, HBCUs vs. SEC showdown.
Maria Cantwell, a Democratic senator from Washington, told USA Today earlier this week that a name, image, and likeness bill was close in a previous congressional session, but some schools wanted HBCUs out of Division I.
“We didn’t think that was such a good idea,” Cantwell said. “And we weren’t for that for a bunch of different reasons. And so the negotiations fell apart over that issue.”
HBCU Sports reached out to Cantwell for further explanation.
“The NIL bill we tried to put together fell apart because it included a requirement that Division I schools provide a baseline of health, safety, and scholarship protections for college athletes,” Tricia Enright, a spokeswoman for Cantwell’s office, said in an email to HBCU Sports. “Not all Division I schools could afford that, notably HBCUs, so we were working on a model to fund those protections for all schools by requiring the athletic association to provide financial assistance. The SEC balked at this approach and would not support a bill that would provide financial assistance to schools.”
A total of 23 HBCUs are currently members of Division I Athletics — 12 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, eight in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, two in the Coastal Athletic Association and one in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Matt Brown, publisher of the Extra Points newsletter, found similar info on proposed assistance for smaller schools. His reports state that “the SEC indicated they would not support that idea” and that Congress didn’t want to go against the SEC. He also reports Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, was singled out as a lawmaker who DIDN’T want to make legislation that would hurt HBCU athletics programs.
Last month the commissioners of the four HBCU conferences in the NCAA — SWAC, MEAC, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAC) and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) petitioned Congress to “when necessary, pre-empt state law, to create clear and fair playing fields for HBCU student-athletes.”
HBCUs, recognized as an entity in 1964, have had to fight for Division I status since the 1970s. The SEC, made up largely of well-funded state flagship institutions that predated or emerged from the confederate states, has become the most powerful NCAA conference fueled largely in part to its television contracts.
The fact SEC schools would rather pull the rug from under institutions that they themselves have benefitted from being chronically underfunded tells you all you need to know about the haves and have-nots in Division I. They only kind of assistance they will get from SEC schools is a six-figure money game in a blowout loss.