Connecticut Follows California’s Lead With Proposed Student-Athlete Scholarship Bill

Last year, I wrote about California’s groundbreaking Student-Athlete Bill of Rights.  The legislation, which becomes effective during the 2013-14 school year, requires California universities receiving at least $10 million annually from the sale of athletics-based media rights to, among other things, continue providing scholarships to athletes who (1) suffer incapacitating injuries, or (2) have exhausted their athletics eligibility prior to graduating.  Universities covered by the law are only required to provide scholarships to athletes that fall into the second category if they are a member of a team that has a graduation success rate of less than 60%.

Now, Connecticut may soon be joining California in passing similar legislation.  A bill introduced by Connecticut State Senator Martin Looney requires public Connecticut universities receiving at least $5 million in media rights revenue to provide academic scholarships to athletes (1) whose athletic scholarships are not renewed due to incapacitating injury or illness resulting from participation in the school athletic program, or (2) who have exhausted their athletic eligibility, but are still in good academic standing and pursuing a degree.

While the Connecticut bill and the California law are similar, there are a few key differences.  For starters, the California bill covers all California universities, public or private.  The Connecticut bill only covers public universities.

Second, the California law covers universities that receive $10 million from the sale of athletics-based media rights.  As currently drafted, the Connecticut bill does not contain the same limiting language.  It takes into account revenue earned from the sale of all media rights when determining which universities would be covered by the bill.  While I doubt this lack of limiting language ever expands the bill to cover any university besides UConn (let’s face it, Central Connecticut State isn’t receiving $5 million in annual media rights revenue, athletics-based or otherwise, anytime soon)*, it is something that the Connecticut legislature could tweak on the bill’s journey through the legislative process.

Lastly, the California law only requires universities to continue providing scholarships to athletes who have exhausted their athletic eligibility prior to graduation if their team has a graduation success rate of less than 60%.  This severely limits this portion of the California law.  Based on recent NCAA data, only basketball and/or football players at Cal, USC, and UCLA would be able to take advantage of the California scholarship continuation provision.  This leaves out athletes on revenue producing teams such as Stanford’s football team.  The Connecticut bill, however, allows any scholarship athlete (in good academic standing) who has exhausted his or her athletic eligibility prior to graduation to continue receiving a scholarship.

The Connecticut bill still has a few hurdles to pass before it becomes law.  But, if it does pass, it could be the beginning of a movement of similar laws being passed in other states.

*And with the rapid deterioration of the Big East, and its decreasing value to TV networks, UConn might not even be receiving $5 million in annual media rights revenue in the future.

About Mit Winter

Mit Winter is an attorney in Polsinelli Shughart PC's Kansas City office, where his practice focuses on commercial litigation. He has represented some of the college sports world's biggest players, including the NCAA, the Big 12, and Conference USA. Mit received his J.D. from The University of San Francisco School of Law in 2005. Prior to law school, Mit received a B.A. in History and a minor in Biology from The College of William & Mary in 2001. Mit was a four year letter winner on the William & Mary Men's Basketball team and started 54 games during his career. William & Mary was the Colonial Athletic Association regular season co-champion during his freshman year. Mit holds the record for the most points scored in a game (36) by a William and Mary men's player at William and Mary Hall, W&M's current home arena, and for the most free throws made in a game by a W&M men's player (17). Mit's experience as a former Division I athlete, in combination with his experience as a practicing attorney who has represented some of college sports' most prominent entities, allows him a through understanding of the college sports world's business and legal issues and provides readers with a unique perspective on the college sports world. Follow him on Twitter at @MitWinter40.

Posted on January 31, 2013, in Scholarships. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. How does the scholarship requirements fit in with the NCAA limits on college athletes. Will giving a scholarship to a former football player because they played footbal count against the 85 scholarship limit.

    Also, should it only apply to full scholarship athletes that only belong to football and basketball players.

Leave a Reply