New Law Protects Calif. Student-Athletes

    The bill, proposed by Sen. Alex Padilla (D–Calif.), will introduce the “Student Athlete’s Bill of Rights,” at the start of the 2013-14 school year. Padilla cited a 16-year survey conducted by the NCAA and the Journal of Athletic Training, which determined that many students whose athletic scholarships were withdrawn were unable to attain their degrees.

    The bill will require affected institutions to grant an equivalent scholarship to athletes dismissed due to injury for at least five years, or until the athlete has completed his or her undergraduate degree. SB 1525 also requires institutions to cover related insurance deductibles and healthcare premiums.

    The legislation only applies to universities that generate more than $10 million in annual revenue from intercollegiate athletic media rights. The only universities in California that currently fall above that threshold are UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford University and the University of Southern California.

    SB 1525 may soon impact San Diego State University as a result of its recent move to the Big East conference, which has a more lucrative television contract. The bill will not affect UCSD, because its only means of compensation is a $500 scholarship awarded to student athletes every academic year.

    Stanford University is the only institution that has publicly opposed the bill thus far. In a letter of opposition, Stanford Interim Athletic Director Patrick Dunkley argued that the bill discriminates against the four universities affected.

    “It applies just to four universities out of scores of institutions of higher education in California and fails to protect the rights of the vast majority of student-athletes,” Dunkley said of the bill. “Why should a Stanford football player have protections provided by law that are denied a football player at San Jose State?”

    It is unclear how the law will impact the affected universities in NCAA competition. According to a 2010 survey conducted by the Office of Postsecondary Education, Stanford allots more money for student-athlete scholarships than the other three affected universities. The survey reported that the university spends $16.5 million on its 987 student-athletes. UCLA was reported to spend the least amount of money, at $9.7 million for their 879 athletes.

    California passed SB 1525 with a 24–10 vote without a debate on the Senate floor. However, detractors argue that institutions should be allowed to seek out other ways to provide medical compensation for their athletes.

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