David Price hopes to shine light on college athletic finances

Jul. 19, 2014 @ 06:34 PM

On Capitol Hill, U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., represents an N.C. district that includes the full gamut of NCAA athletics.

A large public school in UNC Chapel Hill, a small private school in Duke and a smaller public school in N.C. Central lie within Price’s 4th Congressional district.

Yet all compete in Division I athletics, which means all feel the financial pressures that come with trying to compete at the highest level of the NCAA.

With that in mind, Price, and others in the U.S. House of Representatives, believe college athletics need increased financial transparency to ensure a fairness for student-athletes, non-athlete students, parents and, ultimately, taxpayers.

“I’ve been aware of the questions and issues that were gathering force,” Price said in an interview with the Herald-Sun. “The cost of a college education. The changes within the athletic scene which have involved huge changes in budgets. The nationalization of regional conferences. The economics of college sports is really being transformed before our eyes.”

Price and his co-sponsor, U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wisc., presented the bi-partisan SCORE Act bill on Monday. SCORE stands for Standardization of Collegiate Oversight of Revenues and Expenditures.

The idea is that all schools, no matter the size and no matter if they are public or private, would release standard financial information for their athletic departments. The same would be true for the conferences and the NCAA.

Currently, financial information from public schools is available through Freedom of Information Act requests. Private schools, like Duke, are exempt from that scrutiny.

The NCAA makes some information available but it is general in nature. NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn, in an email to the Herald-Sun, said the NCAA had no comment on the bill. She pointed out what the NCAA already makes publicly available.

“Almost everybody says we need good reliable information,” Price said. “Whatever we think, we need better information. Right now we have partial reporting. It really doesn’t add up to apples-to-apples information. Fragmented information risks misinformation.”

NCAA president Mark Emmert testified before the U.S. Senate in Washington earlier this month. He said that the wide-ranging sizes and types of schools that compete in the NCAA present the best of college sports while creating big challenges.

“More often than not,” Emmert told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, “the tension has been around how institutions of vastly different resources and missions will compete against one another. The drive to compete — the very thing that makes sports such a vital feature of American culture — often complicates attempts to bring serious change or rapid reform to intercollegiate athletics. The diversity of Division I creates both its appeal — Cinderella stories as well as traditional rivalries — and its challenges.”

Petri said, with the large interest and millions of dollars involved in college sports, public oversight can only be a good thing.

“Sporting events are an exciting part of the college experience for millions of students across the country,” said Rep. Petri. “And that excitement carries on for alumni and fans in the form of millions of dollars in economic activity associated with these sports. At a time when outstanding student loan debt is over $1 trillion, it makes sense for the public to have an idea about how colleges and universities account for and use revenue from ticket sales, advertising, and contracts. This legislation requires only the disclosure of information that is already collected by the schools and stored by the NCAA, and it will provide helpful insight on the financial impact of college sports.”

That last point by Petri is a key one. The information that the bill would make public is already gathered by schools and reported to the NCAA each year.

“Virtually everyone will consent that we need transparency,” Price said. “Fortunately, we can o it with relatively little difficulty.”

As for how the bill will progress through the House and Senate, Price admits that the looming November mid-term elections make it unlikely anything will happen the rest of this year. But he’d like to see hearings about the bill’s stipulations early next year.

In the end, Price things the information is going to be good for college athletics in the long run.

“I also think that schools are going to find this useful, or at least they should,” Price said. “Practices aren’t the same all over the country. How much money from non-athletic sources is put into athletics? The schools that do this responsibly and ethically will look pretty good as opposed to those who aren’t so conservative in the practice.”