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NCAA Athletes Petition for Cut of Media Revenues

More than 300 college football and men's basketball players from five schools sent a petition to the NCAA last week lobbying for a share of the estimated $775 million of new revenue generated annually by television contracts.

If they end up getting their way, future college athletes could have thousands of reasons to be thankful.

The players asked the NCAA to set aside an unspecified amount of money from new TV revenues each year and put it into an "educational lockbox" for football and men's basketball players. The players could only access the lockbox money once they graduate or once their athletic eligibility had expired.

It's worth stressing this point: The "lockbox" concept would only be for football and men's basketball players. Female athletes would not be eligible for a lockbox of their own.

This news coincides with the release of a new report from the National College Players Association, an advocacy group comprised of current and former college athletes, which estimates that the five major athletic conferences and the NCAA are averaging roughly $784 million in new revenue each year just from TV contracts. (The contracts generate a total of $1.8 billion in revenue per year, according to the report.)

The petition was drafted before the release of the NCPA's study, however. The players sent the petition to urge action when the Division I board of directors meets in Indianapolis on Thursday.

In the petition, the players also urge the NCAA to increase the value of scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance. In a similar vein, they want schools to be allowed to provide multiyear athletic scholarships, instead of the year-to-year scholarships that currently get awarded.

The players suggest that TV revenues should also be used to cover any additional expenses for Title IX requirements related to their proposed reforms.

"With this influx of new money, we argue that this is the time for college presidents, conference commissioners, and athletics administrators to make covering the full cost of attendance a budget priority," said study co-author Ellen J. Staurowsky, a professor in Drexel University's department of sport management, in a statement.

What's Being Considered

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Monday that the NCAA would consider a proposal as early as this week that would allow conferences the option to offer multiyear athletic scholarships. It will also consider a proposal allowing schools to give student-athletes an extra $2,000 beyond the cost of tuition, room and board, and books.

Emmert spoke Monday in front of the Knight Commission on College Athletics, a nonprofit aimed at ensuring the academic integrity of college athletics. The Knight Commission also released a fact sheet yesterday with estimated revenues generated from media contracts for the five major college athletic conferences.

Even without money from the 14-year, $11 billion contract the NCAA signed with CBS for the rights to its men's basketball tournament, the top five conferences are expected to generate nearly $14 billion over the life of their current media contracts.

Given the massive revenue being generated by media contracts, players signing the petition want the NCAA to prevent players with career-ending injuries from losing their scholarships. Currently, the year-to-year athletic scholarship model allows coaches to cut their ties with permanently injured players after one year.

On a related note, the players also request that the NCAA ensures that players aren't stuck with sports-related medical expenses. Currently, under NCAA rules, schools are not obligated to cover sports-related medical expenses; it's strictly optional.

The petitioners hail from the University of Arizona, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Kentucky, Purdue University, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Purdue quarterback Rob Henry, who tore his ACL right before the start of the season, said in a statement, "I have been very fortunate with my situation and Purdue paying for everything. I know there are cases in which players at other schools don't have the same fortune, and this is morally wrong."

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