May 5, 2014

NCAA seeks negative info from colleges on athlete-friendly legislation

The NCAA has announced no position on legislation to help athletes get a college education, but it has sent an email to member schools seeking information on how the bill could “negatively impact” them.

On Nov. 20, U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas introduced legislation known as the Collegiate Student Athlete Protection Act which, among other things, would guarantee athletes in revenue-producing Division I schools wouldn’t lose their scholarships if they stopped playing midway into their educations. Colleges in most states currently can terminate a scholarship if an athlete, for example, suffered a career-ending injury or was cut from the team.

The NCAA told reporters at the time that it had not taken a position. For example, Stacey Osburn, an NCAA spokeswoman, told USA TODAY the same day: “We’ve not yet had a chance to fully review (Cárdenas’) bill to comment specifically on its provisions.”

Correspondence from one day later, obtained last week by The News & Observer in a public records request, shows the NCAA preparing to fight the bill.

“As a general matter, it appears that the provisions would mandate many activities that already are permissive under NCAA legislation and undertaken by many of your institutions,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy wrote. “Because of the varying implementation of our rules, we encourage you to determine how this bill will impact your specific campus and share that information with your local member of Congress and respective state delegations. It would also be helpful for us to receive this information as we could use these examples of how the proposal may negatively impact institutions as we work to educate members in the House and Senate.”

Shown the email, Rep. Cardenas said in a statement he was pleased to see the NCAA “approves of the measures present in my bill that help protect these student-athletes, academically and physically.” But he was “disappointed that the only reports the NCAA sought were for negative impacts to the schools.”

“I believe the NCAA and its member institutions would be well served by also hearing about the tremendously positive impacts on the lives of student-athletes,” Cardenas said.

NCAA officials and the chairman of its Division I board of directors, Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch, could not be reached for comment about Remy’s email.

Cardenas, a California Democrat, has also said in recent weeks that he wants the NCAA to explain the way it has handled the academic fraud case at UNC-Chapel Hill. A second congressman, Rep. Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican, has also said he wants answers about UNC, and he has filed similar athlete-friendly legislation.

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