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NCAA 2Q lobbying costs surge as antitrust lawsuits loom

The National Collegiate Athletic Association spent more on congressional lobbying from April to June than it did in the previous three quarters combined, as it fights lawsuits challenging its structure.

After 10 years with little change in lobbying costs, the governing body of college sports had $180,000 of expenses in the three months through June, according to public disclosures collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The amount equals the most the Indianapolis-based non- profit organization spent in any calendar year since at least 2000. The NCAA is on pace to spend $480,000 on lobbying in 2014, more than double last year.

The expenses, which ordinarily cover three long-standing employees in Washington, D.C., were boosted by costs to prepare for congressional hearings and to respond to congressional inquiries. NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said in an e-mail that the numbers are filed as mandated by law and that the organization had no further comment.

A U.S. district judge ruled last week that the NCAA’s structure creates a cartel that violates antitrust laws by limiting what schools can offer athletes. The NCAA said it will appeal the decision, which would lead to players being paid for their names, images and likeness.

The governing body also faces an antitrust lawsuit brought by labor lawyer Jeffrey Kessler and an attempt by Northwestern University football players to create the first college athletes’ union.

From 2004-13, the NCAA’s calendar-year lobbying costs stayed in the $150,000-$180,000 range, according to center. In the first half of this year, it spent $240,000.

The $60,000 the NCAA spent from January through March equaled the most it had spent in any quarter since at least 2008, when reports were first broken out in three-month blocks.

A pair of U.S. congressmen this year introduced a bipartisan bill calling for more financial transparency at the NCAA, its conferences and affiliate groups.

Another bill calls for large athletic programs to provide more benefits to enrolled athletes who are injured or no longer competing.

The NCAA may pursue an antitrust exemption from Congress as a way to protect itself from lawsuits such as the one brought by Kessler, who helped bring free agency to the National Football League.

Attempts this week to reach members of the House and Senate judiciary committees were unsuccessful.

NCAA President Mark Emmert testified last month to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which is examining issues including sexual assault by athletes, academic fraud and the growth of revenue in college sports.

The NCAA spent $160,000 on lobbying in fiscal 2013, according to its tax filing, an 11 percent drop from the prior year and 6.7 percent more than fiscal 2011. The governing body’s fiscal year ends Aug. 31, accounting for the slight difference between the numbers in its tax filing and those collected by center, which operates the website.