We learned, from Taylor Branch's history, that the term "student-athlete" only arose as a (successful) attempt by the NCAA to avoid having to pay workman's comp to injured players. A Colorado football player, killed by a head injury in the '50s, wasn't entitled to a thing from the NCAA—no health care, no death benefits for his family, nothing. Despite all the money in college sports today, that remains largely unchanged.
California's trying something different: If the NCAA won't change, force the schools themselves to cover their athletes. A bill that passed the State Senate this week would require large schools to compensate athletes who suffer a career-ending injury by giving them an equivalent academic scholarship, and to cover health care premiums and insurance deductibles for low-income athletes.
It's a start. The NCAA cartel keeps players' wages down (to zero), and the bare minimum of promising that a random injury won't leave them without an education and heavily in debt seems humane. But for now, if the governor signs the bill, the rules will only apply to the four schools that receive $10 million in TV and other media deals: Stanford, USC, UCLA, and Cal. A key passage from the bill:
California's institutions of higher education that participate in Division I and Division II intercollegiate athletics collectively generate millions of dollars annually in media contracts, and this revenue would not exist without the efforts of student athletes.
That last clause should probably be the least controversial statement in the world. And yet!
One of the four universities covered has objected to the bill: Stanford, which doesn't take issue with providing protections, but rather with only certain schools being affected.
Patrick Dunkley, Stanford's interim athletic director, said in a letter of opposition last month. "Why should a Stanford football player have protections provided by law that are denied a football player at San Jose State?"
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That's an excellent question. One that should probably be taken up with the NCAA.
Bill would help injured student athletes in California [Mercury News]
Senate Bill SB 1525
H/T Noir Juggling