7:06 AM ETDan MurphyESPN Staff Writer CloseCovers the Big TenJoined ESPN.com in 2014Graduate of the University of Notre DameWASHINGTON — NCAA president Mark Emmert met with a pair of senators Tuesday to continue his organization’s uphill battle to maintain control over the future of college sports.Emmert has spent a large amount of his time in the nation’s capital in the latter half of 2019. He said last week that the vast majority of his workload is now focused on navigating a minefield of legal and legislative challenges to what he calls the “collegiate model” of sports.Those various challenges are all attempts to reform a system that — NCAA stakeholders and the general public agree — has outgrown its amateur roots and needs to create new ways for athletes to share in the fruits of a multibillion-dollar industry. Amid deteriorating public confidence in the NCAA and Emmert’s ability to fix their own problems, the longtime president is looking for help from a group that the NCAA has previously tried hard to avoid: federal lawmakers.During a panel discussion at the Aspen Institute on Tuesday, Emmert said he was “profoundly concerned” about the lack of trust the public has in the NCAA. He disagreed with the notion that going to Congress was a last resort, but said “It’s an appropriate time given where we are on the issue.”Earlier in the day, he joined Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) during the first meeting of a bipartisan political group that plans to examine college athlete compensation. The group also includes Sens. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who had staff members at Tuesday’s meeting. Murphy and Romney have both been outspoken critics of the NCAA in the past several months. They said that while they started by meeting with Emmert, they intend to listen to several other constituents, especially athletes, while trying to create new laws that shape college sports.”I think it’s time for us to recognize that student-athletes need to get a little bit more than they are today,” Murphy said. “They need to receive a little bit more protection, financially and otherwise. I’m really grateful that the NCAA is willing to be part of this conversation.”The NCAA turned to Congress for a national solution after individual states took the lead in creating laws about college athlete compensation. California state legislators unanimously passed a law in September that will make it illegal for schools in their state to punish an athlete for profiting from his or her name, image or likeness starting in 2023. More than 20 other states have introduced or shown interest in similar proposals, some of which could go into effect as soon as this coming summer.Emmert believes it would be impossible to maintain an even playing field on a national scale if each state has different rules about how athletes at their schools can earn money. The NCAA would like federal lawmakers to create a uniform law that addresses the college athletes’ rights to their own name, image and likeness but still provides room for their organization to regulate the details of what is allowed. Emmert said the NCAA and its member schools are best equipped to steer clear of the unintended consequences that could come from a wide-open college athlete endorsement market. Their chief concern is endorsement deals being used in the recruiting process as a thinly veiled substitute for paying athletes directly.To that end, the NCAA’s board of governors tasked its member schools with developing new rules that would allow athletes “the opportunity to benefit” from their name, image and likeness while also maintaining a collegiate model that prioritizes education and makes a clear distinction between college sports and professional leagues. At the Division I level, a group of 18 athletic directors, university presidents and other stakeholders is taking the lead on turning that open-ended mandate into a set of concrete changes.Emmert said this week that the working group intends to have a plan for what those rules would look like and how they want federal legislators to help enact them by late January. The board of governors has asked for a new model to be in place by early 2021, but NCAA rule-makers could act sooner if they deem it necessary. The working group’s request to Congress will include a national law that supersedes state laws and is more restrictive than what California has passed.Emmert and the NCAA have also shown no support for a current federal proposal that would create more of an open market on a national level. Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) proposed a bill earlier this year that would revoke the NCAA’s nonprofit tax exemptions unless it returns the full name, image and likeness rights to student-athletes. Walker said Tuesday that Emmert has refused several invitations to meet with him.Walker called Emmert’s meeting with Romney and Murphy an “ignominious start” to the Senate working group’s efforts.”I don’t have a lot of confidence that [Emmert] really understands the basis of the plight of these families and student-athletes,” Walker said. He’s not alone in that sentiment, according to Donna Lopiano, president-elect of the Drake Group. Lopiano, who heads a reform-minded group focused on academic integrity in college sports, said she has met with roughly 60 politicians on Capitol Hill in recent months and found they unanimously lack faith in the NCAA.”The NCAA is not a respected body anymore,” Lopiano said. “I think that’s going to show.”Emmert told the senators he met with Tuesday that it was important to maintain the distinction between college and professional sports that has been a core principle of what it means to be a college athlete throughout the 110-year history of the NCAA. It’s not clear if the century-old association will be able to set its own definition for what it means to be a college athlete for much longer.