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How Will the NCAA Treat California’s Student-Athlete Rights Bill

Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law a student-athlete bill of rights which will, among other things, require California’s Pac-12 schools does the following:

  • Require schools to pay all medical costs for student-athletes including health insurance premiums for low-income student-athletes;
  • Require schools to provide scholarships to students for up to five years if they are cut for injuries or medical reasons; and
  • Requires schools to provide up to one additional year of aid for any athlete who loses their scholarship without cause.

According to the bill, the financial aid for student-athletes who lose their scholarship is an “equivalent scholarship.” In theory, this means it is not athletic aid. In practice, the NCAA more or less does not care what a scholarship was called. In this case, all of these scholarships are being awarded based on the fact that the student was previously an athlete. That makes all of these scholarship athletically-related aid.

Under NCAA financial aid limits, that means that even though those athletes were dismissed from the team, their scholarships still count against team financial aid limits (aside from student-athletes declared medically unable to continue their careers.. This would be consistent with Bylaw, which handles situations where a student-athletes scholarship was not renewed, but then he or she successfully appealed. In those cases, the scholarship still counts against the team for that academic year.

Now that the law is in place, the NCAA has a choice: put these four schools at a competitive disadvantage by essentially requiring them to offer two-year scholarships, or give the schools a mechanism to cut athletes, but still keep them on scholarship without counting.

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