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Tuesday, October 28
Representatives from universities fight bill

Associated Press

STANFORD, Calif. -- Representatives from dozens of California colleges on Tuesday criticized proposed legislation that would force the institutions out of the NCAA by allowing athletes to make money and hire agents.

Not only would the bill turn the NCAA system upside down and make California a loner in the world of college sports, it also would cost the state's schools and their conferences approximately $40 million annual revenue.

Dubbed "the student-athletes' bill of rights," the legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, and John Burton, a Democrat from San Francisco and the Senate's president pro tem. They believe college athletes deserve better treatment for what they bring to their schools than what NCAA rules allow.

Approved by the state Senate in May, the bill is now in the Assembly's higher education committee, which will review the bill once the Legislature returns to session in January.

"This is a bill of significance for institutions of California and will determine the fate of athletics and could affect millions of fans and supporters," NCAA president Myles Brand told a summit of the state's 47 NCAA-member schools at Stanford University on Tuesday.

"The bill will do far greater harm than good," Brand said. "You put the institutions in a terrible bind -- if they follow state law, they're immediately out of the NCAA."

If it becomes law, the bill could mean schools such as Stanford wouldn't play in the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments as they typically do each year, and Southern California, ranked third in the AP football poll, wouldn't be eligible for bowl games. It would also hurt the Pac-10 Conference, which has four schools in California.

"I'm convinced Senator Murray is a determined, articulate and passionate guy," Stanford athletic director Ted Leland said. "His heart is right. I just don't like his proposal. What he's suggesting scares the heck out of me."

The bill would bar California colleges and universities from following NCAA rules on:

Athletic scholarships and stipends. Health insurance. Jobs not associated with sports. Hiring agents or attorneys to help with career choices. Transfers to other schools. Penalties by others, such as a coach or athletic director.

The NCAA says some of the complaints featured in the bill are being addressed by new legislation or are under review. And Brand insists reforms were in the works before SB193 appeared in February.

For example, the NCAA proposed legislation that would permit schools to pay for a student-athlete's medical expenses resulting from any injury or illness -- not just during the school year. The NCAA also is working to raise total athletic scholarship packages to meet schools' cost of attendance.

Murray has said he doesn't want the state's colleges to leave the NCAA, but he does want the NCAA to overhaul its policies. He claims many students-athletes can't afford to buy toothpaste and toilet paper because of scholarship limits.

"We have this laudable goal of amateurism, but the reality is the only amateurs are the students," Murray said. "I'm not for paying students or giving minimum wage, but there's a certain fairness."

The NCAA distributed nearly $40 million in revenue to colleges in California and their conferences in 2003. That money would go elsewhere if the bill passes.

"It will only isolate California colleges and universities from championships," Brand said. "It would be a significant loss for both the state and the NCAA if California schools are not part of it."

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