“It is clear to me that the imperative of national consistency, fairness and equity requires a federal solution,” said Douglas A. Girod, the chancellor of the University of Kansas, who added that because Division I universities play nationwide, “only a federal approach that creates a level playing field for competing athletes and universities makes sense.”
Yet as he sat at the same witness table, Mr. Emmert stopped just short of seeking congressional action and told senators that his organization “may need your help.”
“The N.C.A.A. has got this working group, and we’re kind of waiting for them to come up with a set of recommendations,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, said in an interview. “If they require legislation, I think we would be open.”
But in a separate interview, Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said it was “hard to imagine a world in which a bill related to college athletics makes it to an open debate on the Senate floor,” at least in the short term.
“We can’t get a prescription drug benefit to the floor, we can’t get a war declaration to the floor, but we’re going to get a college athletics bill to the floor?” Senator Murphy, who has been critical of the N.C.A.A., said in his office.
It is not clear what kind of solution Congress could ultimately fashion. But the reception on Capitol Hill was a signal by itself of the bipartisan scrutiny that college sports leaders will probably be dealing with for a while.
“This whole system has to be reformed,” Senator Blumenthal said. “The N.C.A.A. has a role to play, but only if it gets into the game, which, right now, it is failing to do.”