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.