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New Calif. Law Protects Student-Athletes With Career-Ending Injuries

Starting in the 2013-14 school year, four major California universities will be required to continue providing scholarships to student-athletes who suffer career-ending injuries, under a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown.

California becomes the first state to establish such legal protections for injured collegiate student-athletes, as athletic scholarships are otherwise renewable on a year-to-year basis at the discretion of the school.

The "Student Athlete Bill of Rights," signed last week, requires any four-year university whose athletic program receives $10 million or more in media revenue to provide an academic scholarship to student-athletes who suffer career-ending injuries that cause them to lose their athletic scholarship.

Combined with the time already spent on the athletic scholarship, schools must provide each former student-athlete an academic scholarship for up to five academic years, or until he or she graduates. In other words, if the student has already been on scholarship for three years, he or she would be eligible for two more.

The universities affected by the law, based on current media revenues, are Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Times. The paper reports that San Diego State University may also become eligible for the law in the future.

Keep in mind, this only covers a fraction of the student-athletes in California, with dozens of other universities not eligible for this law due to the media revenue restrictions.

"This bill puts 'student' back in 'student-athlete' by requiring these elite universities to provide appropriate medical care and alternative scholarships to those student-athletes who are injured and lose their athletic scholarships," said state Sen. Alex Padilla, the sponsor of the law, in a statement. "It also makes graduation of all student-athletes a greater priority."

The law also requires universities with media revenues higher than $10 million to provide a one-year academic scholarship to any student-athlete in good academic standing who exhausts his or her athletic eligibility. Athletic programs that graduate more than 60 percent of their students won't be required to offer such scholarships, however.

Beyond the scholarship benefits, the law requires universities with media revenues in excess of $10 million to host a "financial and life skills workshop" for all first-year and third-year student-athletes, including tutorials on academic resources on campus and a recommended budget.

"This legislation is the first of its kind in the nation and promises student-athletes important protections that should have been in place long ago," said Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, in a statement. "California is leading the way by establishing these standards for their universities."

What makes this law such a precedent-setter? Recently, a high school senior football recruit was told by coaches at the University of Oklahoma that his scholarship would not be honored after being diagnosed with a spinal-cord condition that forced him to retire from football. The player had committed to the Sooners in July of this year, and is now considering other college options for his matriculation in the fall of 2013.

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