September 21, 2014

Grassley says congress shouldn’t step into conference realignment issue

The first domino has fallen. The University of Colorado is leaving the Big 12 Conference for the Pac Ten, and Nebraska may pull out of the Big 12 today to join the Big Ten. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the moves could bring the demise of the Big 12 and hurt remaining schools like Iowa State University. Grassley says getting federal lawmakers involved isn’t the best move.

Grassley says, “I’m not one that starts out with the idea Congress ought to or can solve every problem that we have and so I haven’t come to a conclusion of Congress doing anything.” He says there are some angles that could be investigated which may delay or prevent the conference realignment.

“The tax exempt status of these non-profit organizations and the other one is whether or not any anti-trust laws would be violated,” Grassley says. “In the case of anti-trust laws, Congress isn’t going to bring any action under anti-trust laws. That can only be the Attorney General, if there’s a reason for doing it because anti-trust laws have been pretty much the same for 120 years and we don’t prosecute, we only make laws.”

Critics of the conference change-ups remind that public universities are supposed to be focused on education, not on sports and making money. Grassley agrees. “Obviously, a tax exemption is for a specific purpose,” he says. “In the case of educational institutions, it’s for the education of kids, so does this in any way promote the education goals of the university?” Grassley says Congress can look into anything but it isn’t necessarily a good idea, and he clarified his comment on tax exemptions.

“I’m not looking for Congress to take action,” he says. “I’ve been asked by people is there anything Congress can do anything about it? I don’t know until you look into it and maybe even after that I’d say it’s not something we ought to get involved in. Lastly, I want to make clear I’m not trying to do anything about tax exemption. In fact, I’m just the opposite. I want to promote tax exemption.”

Nebraska and Missouri are considered the two leading candidates should the Big Ten expand. The Nebraska Board of Regents is expected to address the issue of switching conferences at today’s meeting in Lincoln.