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  • Legislation Introduced to Protect Collegiate Athletes

    While the debate as to whether universities should financially compensate their student-athletes satiates the press’ headlines, another lesser-known “debate” is already underway within the U.S. Congress.

    Under the current collegiate structure, universities may offer amateur athletes scholarships to obtain a post-secondary education in exchange for their athletic performance.  Without these athletic scholarships, many student-athletes would be unable to afford the higher education, as well as the medical expenses they incur from their athletic involvement.  However, if student-athletes are dismissed from their collegiate teams as a result of an injury, illness, or because they cease to be athletically competitive, they often lose their athletic scholarships, and thus their ability to pay for and obtain a college education.

    Recognizing this issue, U.S. House Representative Tony Cárdenas (D, CA-29), a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, introduced the Collegiate Student-Athlete Protection Act (“CSAP”) in late 2013 with the goal of protecting the academic futures and general well-being of collegiate student-athletes.

    According to U.S. Rep. Cárdenas,

    [h]igh school kids enter into athletic scholarship contracts with the hopes of making it pro, but knowing they are likely playing the last four competitive years of their athletic lives.  It is unacceptable to me, and to millions of other Americans, that schools earning billions from amateur athletics are able to discard these students and destroy their academic goals after a career-ending injury or simply because they are no longer athletically competitive. Worse still, many schools intentionally violate intended scholarship limits, while not renewing the scholarships of young men and women who are working hard for that elusive degree.

    The purpose of the CSAP is to ensure that collegiate student-athletes who are dismissed from their teams receive the same educational and health benefits that they were receiving while they were on athletic scholarships.  As such, if enacted, the CSAP would require universities who receive $10 million or more annually in revenue from media rights to guarantee student-athletes a fair opportunity to earn a full college education.  Specifically, student-athletes who lose their athletic scholarships due to an injury, illness, or poor athletic performance, but remain in good academic standing, would be eligible to receive an educational scholarship in the same amount that their athletic scholarship would have provided had they not been dismissed from the athletic program.  Furthermore, student-athletes dismissed due to an injury or illness would also be eligible to receive the same academic support and tutoring that they were afforded while on the athletic scholarship.  Student-athletes would be entitled to receive all such benefits for five years, or until they complete their undergraduate degrees, whichever is shorter.

    Additionally, the CSAP would require student-athletes to attend university-conducted workshops that provide education on financial aid and debt management, budgeting money, concussions and concussion prevention, and the university’s responsibilities regarding medical insurance and payments for student-athlete injuries sustained.  The CSAP also proposes that universities pay for any injuries incurred by student-athletes stemming from their participation in athletic programs.  Such coverage would include insurance premiums, deductibles, and, for at least two years after the student graduates or leaves the institution, any other costs or out-of-pocket expenses related to the injury.

    The CSAP, if enacted, could have significant implications for colleges and universities throughout the nation.

    If you or your company has any questions or concerns regarding education related issues, please email Cynthia A. Augello at caugello@cullenanddykman.com or call her at (516) 357-3753.

    Special thanks to Melissa Cefalu, a law student at Maurice A. Deane School of Law, and Scott Brenner, a law clerk at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for their assistance with this post.