College athletes who get hurt playing or training for their sport at California’s biggest schools will no longer face one of the grossest injustices of collegiate sports: the loss of their scholarship due to injury. NCAA scholarships are issued in a manner that makes them one-year contracts — coaches and administrators have the option to renew an athlete’s scholarship at the end of each season — meaning a career-ending injury often means the loss of a scholarship and, in many cases, the ability to pursue a degree.
That will no longer be the case for many athletes in California, however, as Gov. Jerry Brown (D) announced Thursday that he had signed legislation mandating the largest schools provide academic scholarships and medical assistance to athletes who suffer career-ending injuries while training or playing their sport, the Associated Press reports:
They will have to give academic scholarships to students who lose their athletic scholarships if they are injured while playing their sport. They also will have to cover insurance deductibles and pay health care premiums for low-income athletes, among other provisions.
The legislation requires the universities to pay future medical costs for on-the-field injuries, providing student-athletes with the kind of guarantees that even some professional athletes don’t receive.
The law applies, for now, to the four California schools that receive at least $10 million in sports media revenues: California-Berkeley, Stanford, Southern California, and UCLA. It could eventually apply to San Diego State, which just joined the Big East conference and could see a subsequent boost in revenues.
This is nothing short of a major win for athletes at these schools. Thousands of athletes lose scholarships each year due to career-ending injuries, and along with the financial aid, they lose the insurance and medical care that comes with it.
Earlier this year, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit against the NCAA by two former football players who lost scholarships due to injury. When athletes are representing schools, generating revenues, and putting their bodies on the line to do it, they deserve to know that an injury won’t prevent them from getting medical care or pursuing an education, and California has now made that law, and other states — and the NCAA — should follow that lead and expand that benefit to more athletes around the country.