College Athlete’s Bill of Rights

California’s to be the First State to Have a “Bill of Rights” for College Athletes

It’s a well-intentioned idea that aims to help protect student athletes from exploitation, but California State Senate Bill 193—the Student Athletes’ Bill of Rights—simply poses too much risk for collegiate athletics.

If made law, SB 193 will prohibit California’s public and private universities from belonging to any association that does not heed the bill of rights’ demands. These demands include the elimination of rules for the terms or duration of scholarships below the cost of tuition and giving an athlete the ability to transfer when his or her coach leaves the school.

The bill also highlights several pertinent issues that associations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics need to consider. And the NCAA seems to be listening to some of these concerns. Addressing one of the points outlined in the bill, the association now allows all student athletes to receive limited legitimate earnings from on-campus and off-campus jobs, so long as the money does not come from publicity or reputation for athletic ability.

Neither side wins if the other does not back down. For example, the NCAA loses the money generated from California schools if they withdraw, and the schools lose the health care provided by the NCAA. In addition, the law would bar California universities from competing against any institution in the NCAA. This means student athletes in the state are taken out of the running for prestigious national championships and other financial aid and academic award programs.

Despite the concession by the NCAA, the legislation takes an all-or-nothing approach to problems that could be resolved through direct negotiations with the association. Passing SB 193 could cast the state and the largest collegiate sports associations in the nation into political brinksmanship.

The bill threatens the growth posture of UC—Davis athletics, which is transitioning to Division I NCAA status. Prestige or scholarships is the NCAA’s role in monitoring compliance with Title IX, a law that bans sexual discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities. Without some kind of supervision, withdrawal from the NCAA threatens to undermine Title IX and the visibility it has brought to women’s athletics.

The legislation has begun a dialogue that needs to continue. But it should not pass in its current form because it represents neither the best interests of student athletes nor of college athletics.

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