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California Senate Bill at Odds With NCAA

October 29, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

Passage of radical state legislation could force California universities and colleges to leave the NCAA and cost the schools and their conferences about $40 million a year in lost revenues, critics said Tuesday.

Senate Bill 193, known as "the student-athlete's bill of rights" and co-sponsored by Sens. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City) and John Burton (D-San Francisco), would forbid California universities from complying with NCAA rules that:

* Limit outside employment earnings.

* Prevent financial aid up to the cost of attendance.

* Limit scholarships to one-year terms.

* Limit health insurance for student-athletes.

* Keep a student-athlete from retaining an agent.

* Halt a student-athlete's ability to transfer without penalty when a coach quits.

* Impose a penalty such as postseason ineligibility directly on a student-athlete if the student-athlete was not involved in the school's violation.

Given all they contribute to their schools, student-athletes deserve more than the NCAA says they're entitled to, Murray and Burton say.

"We have this laudable goal of amateurism, but the reality is, the only amateurs are the students," Murray said. "I'm not for paying students or giving minimum wage, but there's a certain fairness."

Officials from the NCAA and from the state's 47 universities and colleges said at a meeting Tuesday at Stanford that the bill would exclude programs such as USC's third-ranked football team from bowl competition and would gut the Pacific 10 Conference, which includes four California universities.

"The bill will do far greater harm than good," said Myles Brand, NCAA president. "You put the institutions in a terrible bind -- if they follow state law, they're immediately out of the NCAA.

"It will only isolate California colleges and universities from championships. It would be a significant loss for both the state and the NCAA if California schools are not part of it."

If the bill makes it out of committee, it will be voted on by the full Assembly early next year. A veto by incoming Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could stop the bill, now being debated in the Assembly's committee on higher education after it was passed by the Senate last spring.

This isn't the first time a state government has sought to impose new rules for student-athletes. In Nebraska, the Legislature passed a bill last spring that would allow University of Nebraska student-athletes to be paid a stipend, a violation of NCAA rules.

That law, however, hinged on the passage of similar bills by four of the other six states with universities that compete in the Big 12 Conference, which so far hasn't happened. Only Texas has considered such a bill.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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