Bill Would Guarantee 5-Year Athletic Scholarships, Offer Stipends

Tim Goral's picture

When Sacramento Kings coach Keith Smart debated pursuing coaching in the National Basketball Association or college athletics, there was a lump in his throat that sent him to the professional ranks.

Smart said he knew he couldn't keep himself from violating national collegiate rules against giving money to a player in financial trouble or buying winter clothes for athletes without.

He remembers struggling himself in college, despite being on a full-ride scholarship. His mother sent him $20 a week for things like food and incidentals, but it came up short when he needed a winter coat or a quick flight home.

"My little cousin passed away and I couldn't go to the services," said Smart, who launched the game-winning shot in 1987 to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship for the Indiana University Hoosiers.

Stories similar to Smart's have been cited by the National College Players Association as reasons the NCAA, a non-profit membership organization that governs collegiate sports, should allow universities to better compensate players.

As the collegiate sporting world focuses on March Madness, perhaps the NCAA's highest profile competition, a bill making its way through California's Legislature is calling for just that. It's also creating concerns that the proposed legislation could affect the NCAA eligibility of state universities.

Assembly Bill 475 would require all public universities and colleges in California that offer full athletic scholarships and receive media and licensing revenues in excess of $20 million to provide each athlete $3,600 stipends and guarantee full-ride athletic scholarships for five years, instead of the year-to-year guarantee.

Currently, only two California public universities fit this media revenue threshold – UCLA and UC Berkeley. The stipend would be paid for out of the university's media rights and licensing revenues.

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