State government becoming involved in the enforcement of safety for college athletes is good on the surface for awareness, but it begs the question of whether more checks and balances by legislators are necessary to make certain proper procedures are taking place.
A proposed bill in the Connecticut state legislature to create a commission to enforce safety for all the NCAA athletes in the state is in the early stages. If passed, Connecticut will become the first state to oversee the safety and medical care of college athletes. The National College Players Association (NCPA) is supporting the bill. Its executive director, Ramogi Huma, is the same person who spearheaded the attempt by Northwestern’s football players to unionize two years ago, which was rejected by the National Labor Relations Board.
Connecticut state representatives Matt Lesser and Patricia Dillon (above) introduced the bill with Huma providing the intent. That includes mandating college, conference and NCAA staff members to report suspected athlete abuse and violations of the committee’s requirements, monitor and enforce best practices for player safety, receive and investigate player abuse complaints and enacting penalties if allegations are substantiated and provide whistle-blower protection for those reporting suspected player abuse.
These measures read like a chance for a disgruntled athlete, coach or administrator to air his or her differences with a college’s athletic department by getting a state government involved.
Dillon even expressed hesitation over the proposed bill’s future in an interview with CBSSports.com’s Jon Solomon. “I think (enforcement) is way ahead of where we are,” Dillon said. “Ramogi is probably a lot more ambitious than I am. We’re going to have a budget issue (in Connecticut) this year, so it may be more modest what we look at.”
Hartford’s interim athletic director John Carson hit it on the head when he told Solomon, “Big brother and big sister government pass laws that look nice on paper. The real issue is implementation and carry-through.”
With Connecticut’s state budget projected to have a $1.5 billion deficit on July 1, Carson questioned how the state can staff a commission for NCAA athlete safety. “A good, healthy dialogue is probably what’s needed, and you don’t get that in a general session (at the state legislature),” Carson said.
Carson is correct that “a good, healthy dialogue” is necessary and should be welcomed in the process of enforcement safety for all college athletes. Awareness is essential. Concerns are valid and welcome.
Is getting the government involved at the state level the appropriate thing to do? It makes it seem like the NCPA might have an ax to grind. Or at least wants to carry its agenda beyond the NCAA and get state lawmakers involved at the cost of taxpayers. While the NCAA does not enforce strict safety guidelines, it has passed stringent rules in the last few years to ensure that athletes compete only when capable. The governing body has also given more power to each school’s athletic medical staff to make thorough decisions of an athlete’s health.
The focus in Connecticut should not be about having a state government burden itself as being the safety police for colleges. The questions and concerns should be raised to the NCAA itself to adapt safety enforcement to guard against issues like concussions and wrongful use of painkillers.
Javier Morales has worked as a sports journalist for more than 25 years. He reported for The Arizona Daily Star for 13 years. He was the Star’s beat reporter for the Arizona men’s basketball program when the Wildcats won the national title in 1996-97. A 2010 Arizona Press Club award winner, Morales operates the blog site AllSportsTucson.com.