California Law Will Aid Injured Student Athletes

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by Don Thompson, Associated Press

SACRAMENTO Calif. — California will become the first state to mandate financial protections for student athletes who suffer career-ending injuries in some of the state’s top college sports programs under a bill Gov. Jerry Brown announced signing Thursday.

SB1525 protects athletes at the four universities that receive more than $10 million annually in sports media revenue the University of Southern California, UCLA, Berkeley and Stanford.

They will have to give academic scholarships to students who lose their athletic scholarships if they are injured while playing their sport. They also will have to cover insurance deductibles and pay health care premiums for low-income athletes, among other provisions.

The legislation requires the universities to pay future medical costs for on-the-field injuries, providing student-athletes with the kind of guarantees that even some professional athletes don’t receive.

“Neither personal injury nor poverty should dim the dreams of a student-athlete pursuing a college degree, particularly when their performance has enriched their college,” Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Padilla cited a 16-year study by the NCAA and the Journal of Athletic Training showing that each year thousands of students are hurt while training or playing sports, with many of the injuries ending their chance to continue participating.

Of the four schools immediately affected, only Stanford objected to the final version of the bill, saying it is unfair to include only the top money-generating universities. Padilla said his bill eventually could affect San Diego State University because it recently switched to a different conference with more lucrative television rights.

David Roberts, USC’s vice president of athletic compliance, said in a statement that his school was among those that dropped its initial objections after lawmakers narrowed the scope of the bill. He said his university shares concerns that the law will exclude most California students.

The legislation would take effect at the start of the 2013-2014 school year and wouldn’t apply to this year’s departing seniors.

The issue came to Padilla’s attention early this year when the National College Players Association sent a petition to the NCAA signed by hundreds of football and basketball players from schools including UCLA in Padilla’s district. Lawmakers in a number of other states planned similar legislation, but California is the first to enact the requirements.

“This legislation is the first of its kind in the nation and promises student-athletes important protections that should have been in place long ago,” Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, said in a statement.

The legislation was one of several higher education bills the governor announced signing.

Another, AB970, would require the University of California and California State University systems to provide public notice and consult with students before raising tuition.

The fee notice bill also signed by Brown comes after protests from student activists that their education costs were abruptly increased to help universities survive state budget cuts as California battled a lingering deficit.

It requires universities to provide weeks of public notice before considering fee hikes, provide written justification for the proposed increases, detail the effect on students, and outline any possible alternatives. It also limits when the university systems can raise fees each year.

Brown signed the bills during a meeting with more than a dozen college students in his Capitol office, according to a video tape released by the administration.

Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this story.

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