SBJ/January 29 - February 4, 2001/This Weeks Issue

UCLA group leads call for athletes to press NCAA for reforms

A group of former and current UCLA football players is launching a nationwide effort to reform some of the NCAA's regulations on health care, room-and-board stipends and off-season job restrictions.

The group calls itself the Collegiate Athletes Coalition and comprises the members of UCLA's football team and a few former members. The group is getting organizational help from the United Steelworkers of America, which has supported student groups in the past.

The coalition's plan over the next several months will be to contact other football programs across the country and get them to start similar groups, said coalition chairman Ramogi Huma, a UCLA grad student and former linebacker.

Reforms the coalition seeks include getting full health-care coverage during the off-season and voluntary practices, an increase in the NCAA's maximum life insurance coverage, an increase in monthly room-and-board stipends, which Huma said "are not enough to meet real-world costs," and more flexibility in the ability to work and earn money during the off-season. The NCAA limits players to a maximum of $2,000 in earnings.

The goal is to provide a national voice that can affect change in the current NCAA system, Huma said.

"The NCAA has student-athlete committees, but we feel that the student athletes don't have the means to effectively voice their concerns and change existing NCAA legislation," he said.

NCAA officials think the rules that they have in place and the student-athlete system that they have are working.

"Student-athlete welfare is always at the forefront of what we're looking at, and we certainly think that we have the proper framework in place to do that," NCAA spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said.

Legislation regarding issues that affect student-athlete welfare are constantly being reviewed and proposed, she said.

As for getting student athletes involved in decisions that affect them, the system includes national, institutional and conference student-athlete advisory committees, Jankowski said.

At the national level, two members sit on the NCAA's management council and other subcommittees, she said, adding that although the student athletes are not allowed to vote on legislation, they "do have significant influence on what happens in those meetings."

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