The Athlete's Bill of Rights

College players deserve a better shake from their multibillion-dollar business
March 05, 2007

Article One
All athletes shall have the right to transfer once after their sophomore yearand be eligible to play immediately.

The current rulerequiring a sit-out year is a vestige of the crusade to eliminate the"tramp athletes" who migrated from school to school in the early 20thcentury. Sure, rescinding that rule might cause some initial chaos. Butscholarship limits could be tweaked to offset an increase in defections; movescould be limited to a defined off-season period; and protections could be putin place for existing scholarship players so coaches wouldn't wantonly run offplayers to "trade up." As it is, coaches "transfer" all thetime--and no one makes them sit out a season.

Article Two
Scholarships shall be ironclad, five-year deals with full medical coverage andadequate stipends.

Because she ranpoorly, a cross-country runner doesn't get her grant-in-aid renewed(scholarships are only one-year agreements). A football player tears his ACL ina summer workout, and because the session was "voluntary" (wink, wink),his medical treatment might not be covered. A guaranteed five years with fullmedical coverage and more money for incidentals would protect athletes, boostgraduation rates and decrease the risk that players would seek money throughboosters and other illicit means.

ArticleThree
Colleges shall not limit the right of athletes to profit from a sport inancillary ways or to pursue professionally a sport they aren't playingcollegiately.

NCAA rules inthis area make little sense: Colorado kick returner Jeremy Bloom couldn'taccept endorsement money he earned as a moguls skier, but Notre Dame widereceiver Jeff Samardzija could collect a salary as a minor league pitcher. Yes,college stars' cashing in would mock Etonian notions of amateurism, but where'sthe amateur spirit on campuses awash in naming-rights deals?

ArticleFour
Colleges shall actively protect their athletes from performance-enhancing drugsand the pressure to use them.

For everyjust-say-no PSA aired on a Saturday afternoon, there's a strength coach whosends a signal to a redshirt freshman lineman to get stronger by any meansnecessary. "Actively protect" means to test even more extensively thanthe NCAA does now and punish enablers as harshly as users.

ArticleFive
Colleges shall make every effort to ameliorate the disruptive effect thatathletics have on academics.

This means notsteering athletes into classes simply to accommodate practice schedules, andthinking of academics when making game schedules. Big Monday may be anESPN-stitution, but it can cause a basketball player to miss a full day ofclasses. Whatever it takes, colleges should provide: from tutors on planes andrescheduled exams, to makeup classes and a reduced course load in-season.

TWO PHOTOSMICHAEL O'NEILLRIGHTTO CAPITALIZE
Players like footballer-skier Bloom should be free to fully marketthemselves.

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