September 15, 2020

Karen Dennis Testifies to U.S. Senate Committee



Columbus, Ohio – Ohio State Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Karen Dennis is an influential leader in the national and intercollegiate track & field community. On Tuesday, Dennis’ leadership was on display as she testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions regarding compensating college athletes and the potential impact on athletes and institutions.

Dennis, who was the U.S. national team coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and has been in collegiate coaching for over 40 years, was the first collegiate head coach to testify at any of the four Senate hearings on name, image and likeness (NIL). Tuesday’s hearing to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions was chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), former U.S. Secretary of Education and President of the University of Tennessee.

In her testimony, Dennis shared her support for the amateurism model of collegiate athletics and felt paying players in a “pay to play” model would have serious, negative consequences. Additionally, she felt the cost of funding “pay to play” could result in smaller squad sizes, eliminating opportunities for many student-athletes, especially within the non-revenue generating sports.

Dennis supports compensation for NIL and believes it will serve a broader base of students while embracing the successful NCAA amateur sport structure. However, she feels certain guardrails and education programs must be put into place to appropriately support the student-athlete. Unexpected tax liabilities and unexpected financial implications could affect an athlete’s eligibility for some student aid programs, such as Pell Grants.

Dennis closed by addressing the benefits and concerns for student-athletes as compensation opportunities become a reality. She encouraged policymakers to continue to hear multiple viewpoints to ensure that the appropriate structure supports student-athletes and protects the amateurism model that has been so important to the collegiate experience of millions of athletes.

Ohio State’s Department of Athletics offers 36 intercollegiate sports – 17 women’s, 16 men’s and three co-ed – and approximately 1,000 student-athletes, nearly two-thirds of whom are Ohio State Scholar-Athletes and nearly one-half who are Academic All-Big Ten honorees. Only two programs – football and men’s basketball – actually generate a profit. Revenue sharing from these programs supports the existence of the nonrevenue programs. Ohio State’s Department of Athletics is one of approximately 20 nationwide that is self-sustaining and receives no university funds, tax dollars or student fees.