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Senator's Report Urges NCAA to Overhaul Its Health Care

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Senator Chris Murphy (D – Conn.) has spent much of the year fighting for the rights of student-athletes.

He continued that effort Monday, releasing a report demanding the NCAA change its health care system. The report, the third in Murphy’s Madness, Inc. series, is titled, “How College Sports Can Leave Athletes Broken and Abandoned.” Murphy calls for schools to pay for the complete coverage of costs related to current athletes’ participation in sports while also offering former athletes “restitution” for the effects of head trauma.

"The NCCA Division I manual is 400 pages long," Murphy said. "In it, 38 pages are dedicated to stopping student athletes from being able to make money. One page of 400 is dedicated to protecting the health of college athletes. That speaks to the misplaced priorities of the NCAA today.

“Health care coverage shouldn’t depend on the athletes or their families but should be considered part of the cost of having an athletic program.”

Murphy believes that the schools can reallocate some of the money spent on coaches and facilities to improved health care. His report also says scholarships should be guaranteed regardless of injury, and athletes should be able to transfer without consequences when it comes to their health care concerns.

Murphy and Senator Mitt Romney (R – Utah) were also scheduled to meet with NCAA President Mark Emmert on Tuesday, according to USA Today. That meeting will likely revolve around a group recently formed by Senate members to “facilitate ongoing discussions about student-athlete compensation and related issues.”

“Universities and colleges in Utah are grappling with potential changes related to compensating student athletes and so are schools across the nation,” Romney said in the Dec. 5 press release. “It’s not fair for student athletes, especially those coming from low-income families, to give so much time and energy to their sport without any kind of compensation. We need to find a way to resolve this inequity while preserving the integrity of collegiate sports. This working group will serve as a forum for an ongoing bipartisan dialogue as we evaluate potential solutions.”

Emmert said Dec. 11 that it is “highly probable” Congress will set national guidelines for how college athletes can be compensated for the use of their names, images and likeness.

“Members of Congress care about college sports,” Emmert said, according to the Associated Press. “They recognize how important it is to American society. They don’t want to do harm. They want to make it better. But it’s going to be a long road. It’s not going to be something that happens overnight.”

California adopted the Fair Pay to Play Act (SB 206) earlier this year, which will allow student-athletes to earn money from their name, image or likeness, beginning in 2023.

“College athletes are being used as commodities to make money for the NCAA, colleges and corporations, while not being compensated for the work they do, nor given the appropriate health care and academic opportunities they deserve,” said Murphy, who released a report in March detailing how much money the NCAA and its universities make. “That’s plain wrong. The majority of executives and coaches who are getting rich off college athletics are white, while the majority of players at the big time sports programs are black. This is a civil rights issue and I’m glad to launch this bipartisan working group to fix the inequities in this broken system.”

Murphy also released a report this summer saying that the NCAA system is defrauding student-athletes of the value of a scholarship and college education.

“The lack of academic integrity across college sports may be the most insidious piece of a broken system,” Murphy wrote in the report, noting that some colleges treat student-athletes like commodities rather than focus on their education. “You’re obligated at these big kinds of college sport programs to be an athlete first, second and third, and a student fourth. It’s a bit of a red herring for the NCAA to say that a scholarship is enough compensation when a lot of these kids aren’t graduating and many others aren’t getting an education that is commensurate to their peers’.” 

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