WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, authored an op-ed in USA Today warning that college sports will destroy itself if it doesn’t get proactive about reform. Murphy highlights college sports as a money-making machine, debunking claims that the NCAA and Division I programs can’t afford to pay their athletes and need Congress to act before they do, and calls on leadership to give athletes a seat at the negotiating table.

“For the past 30 years, I’ve been an obsessive college basketball fan. As a UConn fan, it has been an amazing ride, and I’ve marveled at how the tournament has grown, now bringing in $1 billion a year for all the adults – the coaches, the network bosses, the sports industry executives – who work in the college basketball industry,” Murphy wrote.

Murphy added: “But nobody knows the names of the TV or shoe company CEOs. It’s the athletes who are packing the arenas, selling the merchandise and starring in the tournament’s ad campaigns. It’s the athletes who are pushing their bodies to their physical limits and risking injury. There is no March Madness – or college sports at all – without the players.”

Murphy laid out why just giving athletes back the right to their name, image, and likeness was an important step, but not nearly enough: “NIL is about giving college athletes the same rights as their classmates – the right to make money off their own talents, whether that be teaching lessons in the offseason or scoring a six-figure endorsement deal. NIL doesn’t provide fair compensation for the 40-plus hour work weeks athletes put in to be at the top of their game. It doesn’t solve the problem at the core of college sports: The athletes generating billions in revenue don’t get anything close to a fair share of it.”

On the path forward, Murphy wrote: “Rather than waste millions of dollars lobbying Congress for a solution, the NCAA could start by engaging directly with athletes to work out a revenue-sharing agreement that ensures everyone gets a piece of the pie…The most important thing is that the athletes themselves get a seat at the table. They care about more than just compensation. They want better health protections, improved safety standards and more academic opportunities. I’ve introduced legislation to make it easier for college athletes to advocate for themselves and collectively bargain with their schools or at the conference level, but let’s be honest: The NCAA doesn’t need Congress’ permission to do the right thing. Our laws already allow for this arrangement.”

Murphy concluded: “I want to save college sports from itself, and that will only happen if the NCAA and its member schools wise up and see the writing on the blackboard. With a new president at the helm, the NCAA should seize this opportunity to turn the page on its stained legacy and finally give athletes what they deserve.”

Read the full op-ed here.

Last Congress, Murphy along with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Representatives Lori Trahan (D-Mass.-03) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.-16) introduced the College Athlete Right to Organize Act, legislation to promote collective bargaining rights for college athletes. Murphy and Trahan also wrote the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act, which grants unrestricted rights to college athletes over the use of their name, image, and likeness. Murphy and U.S. Representative Alma Adams (D-N.C.-12) also introduced the Fair Play for Women Act, legislation to promote gender equity in college and K-12 sports, last Congress.