Protection for student-athletes

New legislation provides better protection for college players.

While it’s unlikely that Congress will pass any major legislation before the year’s end — be it a long-term budget deal or comprehensive immigration reform — there is one measure lawmakers might agree upon.

Back in August, Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, introduced the National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act, which would require the NCAA to be more transparent and guarantee more protection for student-athletes.

The bill, currently in the Subcommittee on Higher Education & Workforce Training, would require NCAA member schools to perform baseline concussion tests on athletes in high-contact sports, according to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The measure would also require NCAA schools to guarantee four-year scholarships to athletes who play in collision sports. Both Dent and Beatty rightly believe many athletes are afraid to report concussions and other serious injuries out of fear that they may lose their scholarships. Earlier this year, the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board wrote in support of guaranteed scholarships unless a player’s academic performance fails to meet minimum requirements.

The bill also includes a provision that would require due process for schools accused of violating NCAA rules. While the NCAA could certainly improve its punishment process, we believe this part of the measure is unnecessary and would be an unwarranted use of congressional power. It could also prove to be a point of contention in Congress and could prevent important player protections from being enacted.

Student-athletes, like all employees with occupational hazards, deserve federal protections. Lawmakers should work to pass the sensible reforms included in the National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act before the year’s end.