New law in California provides "Student-Athlete Bill of Rights"

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On Thursday, California became the first state to sign into law financial protection for collegiate student-athletes. The Student-Athlete Bill of Rights will require universities that generate average media revenues greater than $10 million per year to cover medical costs for low-income students who sustain injuries playing college sports. Today, this law will affect just four of California’s 17 universities that participate in Division I or II athletics: USC, Cal, UCLA and Stanford.

A majority of the financial protections put in place by the new law are intended for student athletes who suffer career-ending injuries. These schools are now required to provide academic scholarships to students who lose their athletic scholarships because of an injury. The law also requires universities to cover insurance deductibles and pay health care premiums for low-income athletes.

Law makers hope that in the event a student-athlete is unable to continue playing their sport due to injury, they would still be encouraged to remain at the university to complete their course work and graduate. Thousands of student-athletes are injured while training or competing at the collegiate level every year. The NCAA and the Journal of Athletic training recently completed a 16 year study that showed in football alone, there were 30,797 injuries from games and more than 53,298 from practice sessions. Many of these injuries are career ending.

“I am big fan of collegiate athletics. But I am also concerned that the vast amount of money in collegiate sports has distracted us from the primary purpose of our 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” says California Senator Alex Padilla. All four schools impacted by this new law compete in the Pac 12 and are scheduled to earn at least $30 million per year with the new 12 year, $4.3 billion TV deal with ESPN and FOX.

For coaches, this new law should provide piece of mind to them, their players and their player’s families. Parents no longer need to be concerned should their child be injured competing that they would then be forced to pay out of pocket for medical care or education expenses that they may not be able to afford in the first place. Coaches could also see an improvement on their graduation rates. Providing this new financial protection to those athletes who can no longer compete will allow them to stay in school and continue earning their degrees, no longer negatively affecting graduation rates or APR.

It will be interesting to see the success that the Student-Athlete Bill of Rights has in California and if other states soon follow suit. Have to think coaches recruiting on behalf of the universities impacted by this new law will pitch this as an additional benefit for the prospective student athletes.