NCPA Calls on NCAA to Enact COVID-19 Relief: Transfer and Compensation Freedoms for College Athletes

The NCAA should enact emergency legislation to help college athletes persevere through coronavirus pandemic...

April 9, 2020

The National College Players Association (NCPA) is calling on the NCAA to enact emergency legislation to address a number of pressing issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.  Like many Americans reeling from the economic fallout, college athletes are facing unprecedented financial hardships that put their well-being in jeopardy.

NCPA Executive Director Ramogi Huma stated, “If ever NCAA sports is going to treat players like people rather than property, it should absolutely be during this crisis.  Never has the NCAA’s archaic prohibitions been demonstrated to be more harmful than during the economic and physical toll that COVID-19 is reaping upon our nation.”

College athletes that depend on money from home are increasingly vulnerable as job layoffs affecting millions of families.  Many players who need part-time jobs to help pay for their necessities are under stay at home orders and are watching America’s job market evaporate.

While the NCAA answered calls from the NCPA and others to grant this year’s spring athletes an additional year of eligibility, the NCAA made clear that these athletes’ athletic scholarships can be reduced or eliminated.  Colleges facing financial losses due to the cancellations of games will have pressure to reduce athletic scholarships and any medical coverage they may be providing to their athletes.  Athletic directors’ public statements about the prospect of cancelling the upcoming football season and all other fall sports underscore this concern.

“COVID-19 is highlighting just how unjust NCAA rules are.  We’re facing the prospect that many athletes in spring sports and now possibly those in fall sports are abiding by NCAA rules that will make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus’ economic fallout without getting to use their eligibility.  Those who do play may be stuck paying their own medical coverage and expenses while facing a heightened risk of contracting coronavirus and passing it along to loved ones.  In contrast, overpaid coaches and athletic directors aren’t worrying about their medical coverage,” said Huma.

Players whose scholarships and medical coverage are reduced or eliminated still face NCAA eligibility punishments for transferring to a college that would provide them a better opportunity.  Many college athletes subject to the NCAA’s economically harmful restrictions are from low-income households.  All college athletes should have the freedom to stabilize their financial situation by any legal means without NCAA punishment.  For instance, why should the NCAA have the ability to prevent a college from waiving all of its tuition and fees for athletes on partial scholarships?

Huma stated, “College athletes are facing hardships similar to that of other students and Americans, but are subject to NCAA rules that compound these hardships exponentially.  NCAA rules heavily restrict the types of jobs players can secure.  Additionally, college athletes pay their way through college but aren’t eligible for unemployment when they lose their scholarship.  If colleges can’t or won’t pay for their athletes’ necessities, why can’t a willing 3rd party pay?  Debunked notions of competitive equity and fake amateurism do not begin to justify the devastation college athletes will suffer under current rules.”

For all of these reasons, the NCAA should enact emergency legislation granting college athletes the freedoms listed below:

1. Allow 3rd parties to pay for college athletes’ health insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

2. Allow 3rd parties and colleges to pay for any or all of a college athlete’s food, rent, utilities, incidental expenses, tuition, books, and fees.  Team scholarship limits should be waived if otherwise applicable while roster limits would still apply.

3. Allow college athletes to secure representation and receive 3rd party compensation for use of their name, image, and likeness.  Compensation that is arranged by a college or used by a 3rd party as an inducement to attract recruits or transfers would not be permitted.

4. Grant college athletes the freedom to transfer immediately without punishment if they are not given a written guarantee within 30 days that they will receive an athletic scholarship that covers the full cost of tuition and fees.  Team scholarship limits should be waived if otherwise applicable while roster limits would still apply.

5. Grant all returning spring sport college athletes the freedom to transfer immediately without punishment if they are not given a written guarantee within 30 days ensuring that they will receive no less than their current athletic scholarship amount for the 2020-21 school year.

Huma stated, “If the NCAA and its conferences have the power to cancel March Madness and spring sports, they can implement these actions just as quickly.”