Legislators Hear Testimony On Need To Spell Out Details On Athletic Scholarships, Medical Expenses

Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player and president of the National College Players Association -- a California nonprofit made up of more than 14,000 Division 1 student athletes -- also testified at the hearing and went one step further. He said the

February 9, 2011

Legislative leaders heard testimony Tuesday that student athletes often don't fully understand when and how their scholarships can be revoked. A proposed bill would require universities to spell out the details.Allen Sack, a University of New Haven professor, told the higher education committee that when he played college football at the University of Notre Dame in the 1960s, he received a four-year athletic scholarship that could not be canceled or reduced if he was injured or if his performance was lacking.However, Sack said, rules on scholarships have changed markedly since then."In 1973, the NCAA made athletic scholarships renewable on a year-to-year basis," Sack said. "Four-year scholarships are a thing of the past."The result, Sack said, is that high school students and their families often are unaware when and how a college can rescind a scholarship.While NCAA rules state that athletic aid cannot be reduced or cancelled during the one-year period of the award because of athletic ability or injury, Sack said, "the rules are murky when it comes to conditions for the renewal and non-renewal of the scholarships in the subsequent year.""Some universities renew scholarships for four years as long as athletes continue playing and adhere to team rules," said Sack. "Others cancel scholarships for poor athletic performance or for injury."Sack, who called the proposed bill the "Connecticut Student-Athletes' Right to Know Act," said he was attending the hearing as president-elect of The Drake Group. According to the organization's website, it has a national network of college faculty that lobbies for proposals that ensure a quality education for college athletes.Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player and president of the National College Players Association — a California nonprofit made up of more than 14,000 Division 1 student athletes — also testified at the hearing and went one step further. He said the majority of high school recruits decide which college to attend based on "false information given to them by athletic recruiters."Most recruits and their parents have no idea, Huma said, that colleges can "leave them with sports-related medical expenses, take away their scholarship for any reason, leave them with tens of thousands of dollars in educational-related expenses, and hold their eligibility and scholarship opportunities hostage when they try to transfer schools."If recruits ask questions such as what happens if a new coach is hired or if they are injured, Huma said too often they are given verbal assurances such as, "We'll take care of you," without any written agreement.The bill, which was proposed by State Rep. Patricia Dillon, D-New Haven, a member of the higher education committee, would require schools to make public their policies concerning sports-related medical expenses, standards for scholarship renewals, and the out-of-pocket expenses that scholarship athletes are expected to pay.Huma said a similar bill was passed in California late last year and he is working to get more states to consider such legislation.State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford and co-chairwoman of the higher education committee, said she thinks that students who get an athletic scholarship often have the impression that the scholarship is good for four years without the chance of revocation."I think the average person's perception is it's a four-year scholarship," she said. "So I'd like to move in Connecticut to make sure that at least the students coming here understand very clearly what the rules are."Judith B. Greiman of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges said her group opposes the bill "because of the strict requirements set by the National College Athletic Association regarding the rules of recruitment."Greiman said the proposed bill might conflict with some NCAA requirements and could complicate an already highly regulated area.Bye said the committee would check with the NCAA to ensure that the legislation does not conflict with NCAA rules. The NCAA public relations office did not return several phone calls Tuesday afternoon.A statement submitted for the hearing by Louise Feroe, senior vice chancellor of the Connecticut State University System, said the university's "athletic scholarship renewal requirements and transfer policies are routinely disclosed and, in fact, a recruit is asked to sign an agreement which does so."The University of Connecticut athletic department did not return phone calls Tuesday afternoon.