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Saturday, March 30, 2013
State Bill Challenges NCAA Amateurism Rules

The battle over the future of college athletics continues to evolve as more and more people view the NCAA's failure to compensate student-athletes from the revenue created by their labor as hypocritical.  Most challeneges have come from either public commentary--Taylor Branch, Joe Nocera, Jay Bilas, etc.--or the court system, i.e. O'Bannon v NCAA.  However, the state of California continues to advocate on behalf of the college student-athletes, not surprising given that it's also home to the National College Players Association (NCPA)--a nonprofit student-athlete advocacy group.

The latest effort by the California legislature is Assembly Bill 475.  This Bill would require all public universities and colleges in California that offer full athletic scholarships and receive media and licensing revenues in excess of $20 million to provide each athlete $3,600 stipends and guarantee full-ride athletic scholarships for five years, instead of the year-to-year guarantee.  As of now, the only schools that meet these thresholds are USC and UCalifornia, Berkeley.

Of import is that this Bill directly conflicts with current NCAA rules regarding amateurism.  Any stipend will be defined as an "extra benefit" violating the NCAA's self-defined amateurism rules.  The $3,600 stipend, not coincidentally, is close to the average amount that the NCPA determined is the cost of attendance shortfall for student-athletes receiving a "full grant-in-aid" scholarship.  For more on this research, please see their study, conducted by Ramogi Huma and Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, entitled "The $6 Billion Heist: Robbing College Athletes Under the Guise of Amateurism."

Finally, from a strict legal standpoint, we may be heading for a showdown--does a state have the right to impose laws that supercede the NCAA's regulations?  I'd say yes.  Will the NCAA challenge this rule?  I'd say yes again.  The result, perhaps an expedited judicial hearing, and ruling on the merits, on the claim that the NCAA's rules impose an unreasonable restraint of trade under the antitrust laws.  Stay tuned.


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