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U.S. Reps. Form 'Student-Athlete Protection Caucus' for Collegiate Athletes

Last week, U.S. Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Charles W. Dent (R-Pa.) announced the formation of a bipartisan Congressional Student-Athlete Protection Caucus to ensure the fair treatment of collegiate student-athletes.

Given everything else that happened with the NCAA last week—from the adoption of a new governance model that allows institutions within the "Big Five" conferences to adopt legislation separate from the rest of Division I to the Ed O'Bannon ruling opening the door for college athletes to receive money (in a trust) while in school—this caucus should have its hands full in the months to come.

The mission statement of the caucus highlighted three main objectives:

  • Ensuring that student-athletes "are being provided with the same world-class educational opportunities" as non-athletes, while "respecting the inherent challenges" that participation in athletics creates;

  • Ensuring that universities "place the necessary importance in protecting the health" of student-athletes; and

  • Continuing oversight of the NCAA and member institutions to "ensure the best interests of student-athletes are being looked after."

"I am thrilled to join Congressman Dent in a bipartisan effort to ensure that the NCAA and its member institutions enact reforms for the betterment of student-athletes who they are expected to serve," said Cárdenas in a statement. "I hope that in the coming weeks and months we will see more universities commit to 4 year cost of attendance scholarships, full medical expense protection and reaffirming their focus on giving student-athletes the same world-class education that non-athlete students receive."

Currently, NCAA athletic scholarships are not guaranteed for four years—they're renewed on a year-to-year basis—and fall roughly $3,000 short of covering the full cost of attendance, according to the National College Players Association. The NCAA's Division I Board of Directors adopted a host of changes back in Oct. 2011, including guaranteed multiyear scholarships and a $2,000 stipend for student-athletes (provided that it didn't exceed the full cost of attendance); however, schools voted to overturn both proposals.

If Congress begins pressuring the NCAA to adopt multiyear and/or full-cost-of-attendance scholarships, institutions—especially those within the "Big Five" conferences—could have that much more incentive to follow through this time around. This caucus on its own may not shake the foundation of collegiate athletics like the O'Bannon ruling or the new governance model could, but it's just another sign that the times are a-changin' for the NCAA.

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