Friday, June 1, 2012

Pac 12 Athlete Bill of Rights - What Would The NCAA Say?

The great thing about living in California is that you are in the forefront of so many things. Proposition 13. Hot new fashion trends. Cap and trade. Medical marijuana. Plastic bag ban. For better or worse, California is ahead of the curve and is the trendsetter for the rest of the country in many ways. A lot of this involves poking the governmental nose where it hasn't gone before. Depending on your point of view, that may be a good thing or a bad thing.

Which brings me into California's latest attempt to establish new ground. The California State Senate has just passed the Pac 12 Athlete Bill of Rights. It would require the four California members of the Pac 12, UCLA, Cal, USC and Stanford, to provide additional financial and educational support for injured and low-income athletes, such as payment of healthcare premiums for low income athletes, protection against medical costs from sports injuries, financial skills workshops, and immediate approvals of transfers, among numerous other provisions.

Personally I don't have an objection to these provisions, but what I'm wondering is how this would play with the NCAA? As all sports fans know, the NCAA is an organization which is known for triviality in its enforcement of its rules of amateurism in some circumstances, while it is often accused of looking the other way with potentially major violations. Schools have been punished for giving away too many T-shirts to prospective recruits or picking a recruit up in the wrong kind of car. Athletes who walk on to a sports team without a scholarship have to pay the cost of team meals out of their own pocket. On the other hand, there is the likely payoff of $200,000 to Cam Newton at Auburn and oft rumored payments to Kentucky basketball players under John Calipari, which have drawn little response from the NCAA.

At the core of these possible violations, both minor and major, is the extra benefits rule imposed by the NCAA. Simply stated, the rule is that student athletes cannot be provided any benefits by a school that aren't available to the student population as a whole. It appears that a lot of the mandates of California's pending legislation fly in the face of the NCAA's extra benefits rule. So if the legislation is enacted, a number of very interesting scenarios may arise. The schools comply with the new state law, whereupon the NCAA places heavy sanctions on each of the four schools for violating the extra benefits rule. Or the schools don't comply with the new state law and are punished civilly or criminally by the state of California. Or the schools extend the benefits to all of their students. I can see it now--National Collegiate Athletic Association vs. State of California in the United States Supreme Court. How will it end?

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