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Congressman Tony Cardenas

Representing the 29th District of California

CÁRDENAS CALLS FOR PROTECTION OF STUDENT-ATHLETES BY “POWER FIVE”

Sep 29, 2014
Press Release
Continuing his commitment to improving the academic careers of American collegiate student-athletes, U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley), founding co-chair of the Congressional Student Athlete Protection Caucus, today authored a letter to the heads of the so-called “Power Five” athletic conferences, calling on them to enact stronger protections for the academic, financial and physical well-being of student-athletes.

CÁRDENAS CALLS FOR PROTECTION OF STUDENT-ATHLETES BY “POWER FIVE”

(Washington, DC) -- Continuing his commitment to improving the academic careers of American collegiate student-athletes, U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley), founding co-chair of the Congressional Student Athlete Protection Caucus, today authored a letter to the heads of the so-called “Power Five” athletic conferences, calling on them to enact stronger protections for the academic, financial and physical well-being of student-athletes.

The letter was also sent to the President of each of the 65 colleges and universities in the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big XII Conference, the Big Ten Conference and the PAC-12.

“The Power Five have been given permission from the NCAA to create a new enforcement and rules structure that will govern these major athletic institutions,” said Cárdenas. “My goal is to ensure that these schools continue to honor their commitment to being academic institutions first and foremost. Anything less would be detrimental to students, and thus to the future of our workforce and our nation.”

Cárdenas letter calls for several improvements including stronger scholarship protections; mandatory full-cost scholarships, granted for at least four years; programs similar to Indiana University’s “Hoosiers For Life” program, which guarantees athletes the opportunity to come back after their athletic career to graduate from IU; oversight to confirm practice time is limited to NCAA maximum guidelines; full injury protection and medical coverage; improved concussion protocols and; NCAA guidelines ensuring that sexual assault cases involving student-athletes are handled in the same manner as that of any other student.

“Intercollegiate athletics provides thousands of students with the opportunity to earn a full academic scholarship each year,” the letter reads in part. “However, without major changes to current practices these student-athletes are left vulnerable. More must be done to protect them both academically and physically.”

Cárdenas finalized the letter by calling for a response regarding the actions taken by conferences to address these issues, as well as any future conference plans in regard to the issues raised.

Finally, Cárdenas invited the head of each athletic conference to meet with him in Washington at their earliest convenience to discuss the Collegiate Student Athlete Protection Caucus and the issues raised in his letter.

 

The letter is printed below:

 

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To Whom It May Concern:

 

Now that the process for the Big 5 conferences to receive autonomy in certain rule making is in motion, I ask that you support significant changes to better protect student-athletes. As a founding member of the Congressional Student-Athlete Protection Caucus, the welfare of student-athletes is of the utmost importance to me. To that end, I have introduced the Collegiate Student-Athlete Protection Act in Congress and been active in finding avenues to better protect those student-athletes. 

Intercollegiate athletics provides thousands of students with the opportunity to earn a full academic scholarship each year. However, without major changes to current practices these student-athletes are left vulnerable. More must be done to protect them both academically and physically.

First and foremost, student-athletes must be provided with stronger scholarship protections. Athletic scholarships constitute a contract between the institution and student-athlete that cannot be voided due to poor athletic performance, injury or non-disciplinary reasons. Any student-athletes no longer able to compete athletically should be given an equal academic scholarship. I feel encouraged by Indiana University’s leadership in the recent announcement of the Hoosier for Life program and hope that more schools will follow their lead.

These scholarships should provide for the full cost of attendance, so that student-athletes can focus on their education. Student-athletes are students first. You must ensure that student-athletes graduate with the same quality education as their student-only counterparts. Student-athletes must graduate with degrees that allow them to continue to be successful long after the final whistle of their athletic career.

Not only are changes needed regarding scholarship renewal and addressing the quality of the education of student-athletes, but we must also ensure student-athletes are allowed enough time to compete in the classroom. Student-athletes frequently comment that their sport requires the time commitment of a full time job, and that they go beyond NCAA limits. The NCAA has a 20 hours in-season / 8 hours out-of-season rule for required sports participation to help students prioritize their time spent on education. I ask that NCAA or Conference officials randomly and consistently attend a week of team preparation, at randomized times and locations, to ensure these limits are being respected.

Next, schools should ensure that injuries suffered during sports participation are fully covered. Student-athletes put their bodies in physical danger on the playing field and should not be forced to pay for their own medical expenses if they are a result of a university sponsored function.

Athletic departments must also aim to create specific measures to combat concussions in contact sports. The example that the Ivy League is currently setting is a great standard. I ask that your member institutions follow their lead.

Finally, a Senate report indicates that one-third of sexual assault cases involving a student-athlete are handled within the university’s athletic department. This is unacceptable. There can be absolutely no difference between a sexual assault involving a student-athlete and one involving any other student. Changes are needed so that all sexual assault cases are handled uniformly.

I would appreciate a response by November 15th with thoughts on the issues raised in this letter, steps your conference has taken to address them and any considerations being made to further protect the financial, academic and health needs of the students in your athletic programs. I also would like to sit down with you prior to the beginning of the new year to discuss your efforts and how we can work together to make sure student athletes are successful in all aspects of their lives. Please contact my office at (202) 225-6131, the next time you are in Washington D.C. to coordinate a time to meet.

Signed,

TONY CÁRDENAS