Law forces scholarship fine print disclosure
The Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. — James Jackson assumed that when he was offered a full football scholarship to Ohio State it meant that as long as he stayed out of trouble and kept up with his school work, the university would pay for his education for four years.
He later discovered, that’s not always how it works.
Jackson, a wide receiver, says he was asked to transfer after last season, two years into his college career.
“They had an oversigning issue,” Jackson said. “They had to free up a few scholarships, and coach (Jim) Tressel told me I probably wouldn’t play and maybe Ohio State wasn’t the place for me.”
Jackson said he didn’t understand when he was being recruited that all scholarships are only good for a year, subject to renewal at the discretion of the school.
He was never told that he might be asked to transfer if he wasn’t performing up to expectations and the school wanted his scholarship for someone else.
In response to cases similar to Jackson’s, California and Connecticut have passed legislation that will require colleges in those states to disclose the fine print of athletic scholarships to student athletes.
Connecticut’s law, which passed the state House by a vote of 140-3 and was unanimously approved by the Senate, will take effect on July 1. California’s, signed into law in 2010, will be fully implemented in 2012. Other states are considering similar legislation.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith denies the school forced Jackson to transfer.
“Our policy is as James Jackson stated: As long as a student-athlete maintains his/her academic standing, behaves appropriately, and handles his/her responsibilities, he or she will retain their scholarship. We have no proof of any conversation between he and former head coach Jim Tressel,” he said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The new laws require schools to disclose to all recruits the policies concerning the standards for scholarship renewals, sports-related medical expenses, and out-of-pocket expenses that students on athletic scholarships are expected to pay. Schools must post these details on the Internet and make that link available to recruits.
Connecticut state Rep. Pat Dillon, D-New Haven, said she became aware of the issue when a constituent, whom she declined to name, was injured while on scholarship, then discovered the school would not pay her sports-related medical expenses.
The NCAA said it requires athletes have insurance coverage for athletically related injuries up to $90,000. After that, the NCAA Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program kicks in. Some schools provide athletes with health insurance, others require parents or the students to pay for it.
“Families very often rely on schmoozing from recruiters who say things like, ’The school will take care of you’,” Dillon said. “They don’t necessarily know what they are getting into when they start signing documents.”
Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker, said he didn’t. Huma founded the National College Players Association after he graduated to support college athletes, and helped sponsor the legislation in California.
He said he wasn’t aware of all the expenses he would be responsible for in college, such as phone bills and transportation and medical insurance.
“Recruiters are fueling a lot of myths,” he said. “Chief among them is the four-year scholarship. Four-year scholarships don’t exist, so this bill will show recruits the truth and point out things they need to consider when making a choice.”
Allen Sack, a professor of sports management at the University of New Haven, said the legislation also will help athletes comparison shop when choosing a university.
It can cost a student up to $5,000 a year or more, out of pocket, to pay for school expenses that are not covered with a full athletic scholarship, he said. And because that amount varies so widely among schools, those who keep those costs down will now have a competitive advantage. Under the new laws, schools will have to spell out the differences between costs covered under scholarship. and the total yearly expenses of attending the school.
“I want to send my son or daughter to a school where they treat them not as commodities, but as valuable human beings,” Sack said. “This kind of legislation will create competition among schools.”
The NCAA has taken no position on the new laws, spokesman Erik Christianson said in an email.
Connecticut assistant basketball coach Kevin Ollie said he supports anything that would help better inform students about what they can expect when they get to school. He’s been on both sides of the issue, as a player at UConn and a recruiter.
Ollie said Connecticut tries to make all relevant information available to recruits.
“It’s a lot of responsibility on you once you are in college,” Ollie said. “These players need to know that (a scholarship) is just one year, and then you get evaluated. But they also need to know we support them. We’re not just going to kick a guy out. (Basketball player) Michael Bradley redshirted last year. So, are we going to just kick him out? No. He’s going to get renewed. But players need to know there are expectations for them, too.”
Quinnipiac University basketball coach Tom Moore said he doesn’t believe the law will lead to many changes in the recruiting process. His school, and all others that he knows of, already make the details of scholarships available to recruits and their families, he said. And most families, he said, are savvy enough to ask the right questions anyhow.
He said while there is a perception that schools sometimes run off athletes to give a scholarship to a better player, more often the decision to transfer is initiated by the player, not the coach.
“With each passing generation of kids, you are getting kids who are less driven to work through things,” Moore said. “You get a lot of kids who come in expecting success, without realizing the work you have to put in to achieve success. That’s sometimes where the conflict comes in.”
But Jackson said if he had known then what he knows now, he would not have gone to Ohio State, and believes disclosure laws can help others avoid similar mistakes.
“My main goal coming out of high school was to get a degree from a Division I program,” said Jackson, who now attends Wayne State, a Division II school in Michigan. “If I had known they wouldn’t keep me in school for four to five years, no matter what, I would have gone somewhere else.
“I don’t necessarily feel used, and maybe coach Tressel was right, maybe Ohio State wasn’t right for me,” he said. “But this would have helped me out by maybe knowing that before.”