Proposals for NCAA reform seek to expand student-athlete rights  

For many years, the empowerment of student-athletes has been an important point of discussion in all levels of collegiate athletics. In pursuit of this goal, U.S. senators have proposed a “College Athletes’ Bill of Rights” that would not only influence NCAA Division I schools if enacted but has already fueled a policy proposal from the NCAA Division II President’s Council that would directly impact CPP student-athletes. 

Thproposed Division II framework will be voted on during the NCAA’s National Convention in January 2021 

For Division II schools, like CPP, a change possibly on the horizon via the president’s council proposal, would be allowing the various athletic programs to educate their student-athletes on how to properly build their NIL while still complying with the NCAA’s regulations. 

For most Division I schools, many student-athletes have already established their name, image and likenessIn response, this proposed bill of rights, if enacted, would work toward providing athletes fair compensation for any marketing done by the school, healthcare for sport-related injuries and more educational opportunities for athletes.  

Many CPP student-athletes recognize that compensation and establishing name, image and likeness have been a hot topic of debate. Cosette Balmy, a junior guard for CPP’s women’s basketball, said that international students that come to play for these colleges are especially susceptible to exploitation by Division I schools. “They’re not aware of all the rules,” Balmy said. “They’re the easiest prey.” 

Cosette Balmy is a junior athlete at CPP for the women’s basketball team. She is an international athlete who resides in France. (Courtesy of CPP Athletics Department)

This exploitation comes in many forms such as not knowing the NCAA rules of name, image and likeness and not knowing how the system or Division I, II and III colleges operate. Global Sport Matters had interviewed former international student-athletes about how they’ve adjusted to playing in the US. Among these international student-athletes was Gerhard de Beer, who stated that for many like him, they knew nothing about the system, culture of university life or Power Five Conferences for District I schools. He stated that had he known more about these; it would have made his choice a lot easier. 

In the past, the NCAA has struck down petitions from former and current student-athletes to receive compensation for their time and effort. This also included prohibiting student-athletes from third-party brand deals that marketed their NIL. 

According to the NCAA, in lieu of compensation, Division I and II schools grant student-athletes the opportunity to apply for financial aid through need-based scholarships.  

According to US News, the average athletic scholarship is around $18,000 per student-athlete, while the average cost of tuition for out-of-state students and private schools were anywhere from $22,000 to $37,000. This still leaves debt for student-athletes to somehow pay.   

Division II schools, like CPP, have more of a balanced academic and sport life. Students at these schools have access to scholarships but also have the opportunity to seek out part-time jobs to help with the costs of tuition.  

Division I schools, on the other hand, are vigorously training and competing year-round; this includes off-seasons where students will still train to keep their spot on the team. Meanwhile, need-based scholarships at this level are on a first come first serve basis, with many former and current students reporting they had very little time to seek out internships or part-time jobs. 

Criticism from former and current student-athletes have also been leveled at colleges when recruiting high school or transfer students. Prospective student-athletes choose to sign a National Letter of Intent that prohibits students from transferring schools while they are part of the sports team. While it’s not required to sign this letter, it does fast track the recruitment process and guarantees them some financial aid support and a spot on the team faster. However, the downside is some prospective students blindly sign without reading the fine print as far as penalties go. 

For those that did sign and weren’t knowledgeable on these penalties for transfer, student-athletes are penalized by missing a full year of eligibility to play sports or by being benched for the rest of the season. 

The bill of rights framework for Division I schools will work to ensure that students may transfer freely without any penalty for breaking their agreement with their school.   

Brian Swanson, the director of intercollegiate athletics at CPP, stated, that he could foresee unintended consequences with Division I student-athletes being able to transfer freely. “I would anticipate situations arising where student-athletes actually get further behind in graduating,” Swanson stated. “Because not all credits usually transfer.” 

In addition, the bill of rights would provide student-athletes healthcare for sport-related injuries and hold schools responsible for letting their players practice or perform in bad conditions including environmental factors such as playing during the current pandemic or with unsuitable air quality. 

As a Division II school, most of the wellness standards have already been implemented at CPP. As Swanson noted, the CCAA was the first association to suspend fall sport seasons back in May in response to the pandemic. 

Danelle Bishop, the women’s basketball head coach, said that before the pandemic, coaches at CPP have always kept in constant contact with sports medicine staff to avoid any type of injury.  

“We all want to win,” Bishop said. “But we’re all not out there trying to win at all costs.” 

For some Division I schools, there is very little time spent outside of sportsStudents will spend a majority of their time trying to find a balance between their academic schoolwork and their sports life. The competition for these schools is fierce, and sometimes leads students to create an imbalanced time management where they spend most time training for their sport. Five years ago, some Division I schools encouraged this imbalance. According to Time Magazine, the University of North Carolina and Syracuse University were one of many schools that allowed academically ineligible athletes to compete and offered passing grades for lectures that were skipped out on. 

The bill of rights framework will address these issues by setting up a panel of former and current student-athletes to directly negotiate and voice their concerns to the NCAA. 

Kira Zimmerman, a junior setter for women’s volleyball, stated that on a nation-wide level, coaches and administration should be pushing for their students to have more academic opportunities to grow outside of sports.  

“We are students first, then athletes,” Zimmerman added. 

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