The NCAA’s Power 5 conferences Thursday passed new legislation requiring member schools to make mental health services and resources available to their student-athletes.
The move comes in the wake of the death by suicide of former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, which both shocked and saddened the world of college athletics.
ESPN reports that Washington State AD Pat Chun spoke during the Division I Autonomy Forum and Business Session at the NCAA convention in support of the legislation, pointing out that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college-aged people. When the vote took place afterward, representatives from each of the Power 5 leagues, plus 15 student-athlete representatives, unanimously supported it.
"It's powerful that it was passed in unanimous fashion," Chun told ESPN. "Stuff like this is a no-brainer for college athletics. We do a lot for our student-athletes, so I think it's time we do something in terms of the mental health. Most, if not all, schools in the Power 5 are doing something, but the worst-case scenario is dealing with a tragedy that no school or family wants."
The new legislation is meant to strengthen and support the mental health resources that are already available on many campuses, as well as destigmatize the seeking of help and support for mental health struggles. Now, schools will distribute mental health education information and resources to student-athletes, coaches, administrators and other personnel within athletics departments.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, whose conference last January created a task force devoted to mental health, told ESPN that mental health is a concern many of his student-athletes have, and that supporting the legislation made sense.
"One of the greatest changes I've seen in my time as commissioner is concern over mental health," Scott said. "As I travel around our conference and meet with our student-athletes, this is among the top issues they want to talk to me about, and many of our schools have been real thought leaders in this area. It's been an emerging priority, so the fact that this passed unanimously signals the fact that nationally this has risen to the top among the areas that universities want to address."