14-Point Plan to improve U.C. student-athlete policies on Wednesday

05-10-16

SACRAMENTO - A year after leading opposition to an underwhelming proposal that sought to respond to the disproportionately low graduation rates of some athletic programs at the University of California (UC), Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom - in concert with UC President Janet Napolitano - will propose a 14-point plan designed to improve student-athlete graduation rates at Wednesday's UC Board of Regents meeting.

"Very few will go onto the NBA or NFL but these kids put their bodies and careers on the line for their school and its community. If the university is promising its first-class public education in return, that commitment must be honored," said Lt. Governor Newsom, who also serves as an ex-officio Regent. "There is much more the UC can do to ensure its athletes have an opportunity to be successful off-the-field and extend to all of its students an education worthy of the UC name, the nation's greatest institution of public higher education."

NCAA records show that only 1.6 percent of college football players and 1.1 percent of college basketball players (men's) will advance into professional careers in the NFL and NBA. At the same time, the University of California has sought to address a series of disappointing academic-performance metrics within some athletic programs, including a 2013 report revealing that UC Berkeley's football and men's basketball teams held the nation's worst graduation rates among all seventy-two schools boasting top-tier intercollegiate athletics teams.

UC Berkeley has since adopted a number of reforms to lift the football program's four-year Academic Performance Rate to its highest since 2008-09. Yet there remain few system-wide policies and principles that set minimum standards and incorporate best practices across all UC campuses. The 14-point plan is a series of system-wide benchmarks designed to improve academic success among student-athletes, reaching beyond the baselines of NCAA requirements. The plan being presented to the UC Regents on Wednesday addresses administrative accountability, admissions, financial support, injury support, academic and career support, and student life. The fourteen proposed reforms are:

Administrative Accountability

1. Athletic Directors shall report directly to the Chancellor of their campus;

2. Academic performance should be a central element of annual performance evaluations for athletic directors and all athletic coaches;

Admissions

3. Athletic coaches should have no decision-making authority in the final admissions of student-athletes;

4. During the recruitment and admissions process, athletic departments should work to identify student-athletes who may need additional support to succeed academically at UC, and collaborate with other campus departments;

Financial Support

5. Each campus should publish their athletic scholarship appeals process to ensure student-athletes and their families are aware of their rights;

Academic Support

6. Athletic departments should work to identify and support student-athletes once they have matriculated, with specially-trained counselors to work with student-athletes;

7. Academically at-risk student-athletes should be required to meet with academic counselors regularly;

8. Priority course registration for student-athletes because of the time required for travel and practice schedules;

9. Athletic departments should work with campus career counselors to address the unique career-education and preparation needs of student-athletes;

10. Diligent compliance with the NCAA's rule limiting practice for student-athletes to 20-hours per week;

Injury Support

11. Students sustaining a career-ending injury while participating in intercollegiate athletics shall be provided with an equivalent grant or scholarship to finish his/her degree;

Student Life

12. Freshman/transfer orientation for student-athletes should communicate the academic and behavioral expectations of student-athletes as visible campus leaders, and inform student-athletes of all available academic and career resources;

13. Training and counseling services to address system-wide student issues such as sexual assault, campus climate, and mental health;

Reporting

14. UC Regents to receive annual reports on the implementation of the proposed policy changes.

Lt. Governor Newsom wrote to the UC President in August 2014 with concerns about the academic underachievement demonstrated by some of the athletic programs at the UC, including a failure at one campus to graduate more than half of its student-athletes in 2013 and 2014. In January 2015, Lt. Governor Newsom led the opposition to a proposal that would have authorized the approval of all UC athletic personnel contracts without the UC Regents' oversight, and rejected a new benchmark that tied the UC's athletic department standards to the NCAA's lowest academic benchmark, which all but one of the UC's athletics programs had already surpassed despite posting disappointing rates of academic success.

The Lt. Governor and his office subsequently met with UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Riverside athletic departments, and worked with the UC President's task force to study and produce these recommendations that will be considered by the Board of UC Regents in Sacramento, on Wednesday.

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