California and Indiana Lawmakers to Push Athletes Bill of Rights

New law would require high-revenue athletic programs to pay for their athletes' sports-related medical expenses, pay into a state trust fund for continuing education and student loan repayments for former football and basketball players', and more.

NCPA's Model Legislation Gaining Traction in a Dozen States
January 9, 2012

Riverside, CA— The National College Players Association (NCPA) launched a campaign to bring forth new laws to protect student-athletes in numerous states and is calling on states across the country to adopt the NCPA’s model legislation.  Indiana State Representative Bill Crawford is the first to introduce NCPA model legislation, which would guarantee college student-athletes basic protections, require colleges with lucrative TV revenues to pay for its student-athletes’ sports-related medical expenses, and invests in increasing graduation rates among football and basketball players and more.  California State Senator Alex Padilla also announced his commitment to introduce California legislation aimed at securing many of the same protections outlined in the model legislation.  The NCPA is in talks with lawmakers from a dozen states and will announce additional states that introduce legislation on its Twitter account @NCPANOW.

This announcement comes just days before the NCAA’s annual convention in Indianapolis during which the NCAA will be attempting to pick up the pieces from its recent failure to sustain modest reforms approved by the NCAA Board of Directors and NCAA President Mark Emmert in October.  NCAA colleges voted to nullify the NCAA Board’s move to allow an optional stipend for student-athletes of up $2000 as well as the option for multi-year scholarships.  This recent failure supports a 2009 Knight Commission survey revealing that most FBS college presidents’ believe that they do not have the power to bring forth much needed reforms in NCAA sports.

NCPA President Ramogi Huma stated, “The NCAA and colleges are incapable of reforming college sports.  They have tried to convince us that they will do the right thing for their student-athletes, but they are the entities actively denying their student-athletes basic protections.  That’s why the NCPA has decided to launch a legislative campaign for comprehensive reform.”

Indiana State Representative Bill Crawford stated, “I believe that this an important piece of legislation that enhances the mission and mandate of state universities in regards to educating student athletes.  This bill offers safety and education protections for student athletes that generate significant income for state supported universities.”

“I am very concerned that the vast amount of money in collegiate sports has distracted everyone from the primary purpose of colleges.  With billions of dollars in television revenue gained on the backs of student-athletes it is shameful that so few student-athletes actually graduate and that many are further burdened with medical bills due to injury.  Neither personal injury nor poverty should dim the dreams of a student-athlete pursuing a degree, particularly when their performance enriches the college,” said California State Senator Alex Padilla.  

NCAA rules allow athletic programs to stick injured student-athletes with sports-related medical bills and hold student-athletes’ eligibility hostage if they try to transfer while graduation rates among the football and basketball players that generate billions of dollars per year hover around 50%.  The NCAA recently ended a trust fund it established as part of an antitrust class action lawsuit settlement that provided money for former Division I football and men’s basketball players to continue education, career skills development, and other benefits.  The NCAA currently caps scholarships at one year and coaches can refuse to renew them for student-athletes in good standing for any reason including permanent injury.  In addition, the NCAA caps “full” athletic scholarships below the cost of attendance at every school in the nation, leaving unsuspecting student-athletes with about $3000-$5000 in educational-related expenses every year.

If this legislation is enacted, college athletic programs would have to provide funds for student-athletes in good standing whose athletic scholarships are not renewed, maintain safe workout environments to help prevent serious injury and death, allow student-athletes to transfer without imposing restrictions, and grant student-athletes the same due process rights as other students.  

In addition, former college football and basketball players whose athletic programs average at least $10 million per year in TV revenues would be eligible for a loan forgiveness program in which student-athletes that take out student loans to cover educational-related expenses that the NCAA prohibits from inclusion in athletic scholarships could apply for a payment to made directly to their student loan creditor up to the annual scholarship shortfall that they incurred each year while on scholarship.  Also, former football and basketball players whose eligibility expires before they complete their undergraduate degree would receive funds to continue their education.  Other former football and basketball players would receive funds after they earn their degree.  Former players found to have committed a major NCAA violation would not be eligible for these funds. Athletic programs would pay a fee to a state-commissioned trust fund, which would allocate funds as required by the legislation.

The LA Times recently interviewed Pac-12 record-breaking USC wide receiver Roberts Wood who stated that his scholarship left him struggling to pay for basic expenses such as food.  He was in support of a scholarship increase because, "All these universities are making money off their players."  After USC Athletic Director Pat Haden recently examined the budgets of a number of his football players who were scrounging around the campus inquiring if there was free food available, he estimated his athletes need another $3,300 just to pay for basic expenses.  Speaking in support of an increase in expense money for student-athletes, Haden stated, "It doesn't seem right and I think it's a public relations nightmare…We have to do what's right."  

Huma stated, “Many programs are awash in new TV revenue and, considering the educational mission these athletic programs claim to maintain their tax exempt status, a portion of these revenues should be invested in increasing graduation rates.  History has shown that without an intervention, this money will instead be spent on building more stadium luxury boxes and lavish salary increases for coaches and athletic administrators.”

After NCAA President Mark Emmert followed suit with his last two predecessors and denied NCPA President Ramogi Huma’s meeting request to discuss these issues in October, hundreds of football and basketball players from several colleges signed a petition calling for many of the protections outlined in this legislation.  In addition to denying Huma’s meeting request, the NCAA refused to discuss the content of the petition at its Board meeting.  

Purdue quarterback Rob Henry, who circulated the petition among his teammates, stated, “We petitioned the NCAA for some basic improvements and they were unresponsive.  Fortunately our efforts have not gone unnoticed and now through the interest of our state lawmakers, student-athletes have an opportunity to receive basic rights and protections.”

UCLA football player Jeff Locke, who lead the petition drive on his campus, stated, "Legislation that will be introduced in California and other states is necessary to protect student-athletes and increase graduation rates.  Covering sports-related medical expenses, retaining a scholarship after a sports-related injury, and covering the full cost of attendance are protections that most people think are already a part of college athletics.  The reality is that student-athletes do not have many basic protections, and many lack the support to finish their degree. Some of these student-athletes generate millions of dollars for their athletic departments yet do not receive enough support to consistently pay for food.  Student-athletes in California and other states should let their support for this bill be heard by their state legislature and the general public."

This legislation does not force colleges to violate NCAA rules, complies with Title IX, and does not require taxpayer dollars.  The NCPA released a joint study with Drexel University’s Department of Sport Management highlighting almost $800 million in new annual TV revenue among major athletic conferences and the NCAA.  By virtue of its membership in the Big Ten Conference, the Purdue and Indiana athletic programs each receive an average of about $21 million per year in TV revenue alone of which about $12 million of the revenue is new.  Each Pac-12 school in California is set to receive about $15 million per year in new TV revenue and $21 million total revenues.  These numbers do not account for other major sources of revenue such as game ticket sales.  The NCPA estimates that this bill would require high revenue athletic programs to pay a relatively modest fee of approximately $2 million per year to comply with the legislation, which would leave each of these programs $10-$13 million in new annual revenues to spend how they please.