Pa. Bill Would Let Student Athletes Unionize

Sen. Anthony Williams, running for mayor, wants to change big-time college sports.

Yes, he’s running for mayor, but in the meantime Sen. Anthony Williams also wants to change big-time college sports.

PennLive reports that Williams is behind a bill that would let student-athletes at the state’s biggest college sports programs unionize — a move that has been fiercely opposed by the NCAA everywhere else it’s been proposed. As written, the bill would seem to affect athletes at Penn State, Pitt, and Temple universities.

In a December memo seeking co-sponsors, Williams said he is seeking to end the exploitation of student athletes:

Collegiate athletics is a major source of revenue for universities, built on the backs of “amateur” student athletes. The USA Today reports that one Pennsylvania school took in over $108 million in NCAA revenues last year. According to the Drake Group, a national organization of faculty that studies intercollegiate athletics, the compensation of head football coaches increased 8.3 times faster than that of university presidents between 1985 and 2009, and 25 times faster than that of full professors. In Pennsylvania, out of the 18 universities with state affiliations, this year $7 million alone is being distributed only to 3 football coaches. While the schools and coaches continue to benefit from this revenue, student athletes are excluded from the very revenue they help generate. My legislation will ensure that student athletes receive a fair and equitable piece of the revenues they generate for everyone else.

PennLive’s overview of the bill:

In addition to allowing athletes at certain universities to unionize, Williams bill would:

• Require schools with television revenues over $10 million annually to provide comprehensive medical insurance coverage to student-athletes beyond the NCAA-mandated minimum catastrophic insurance.
• Make those schools provide an academic scholarship equal to the player’s athletic scholarship if a player loses the ability to play due to injury.
• Allow a student-athlete to retain the rights to use his or her name and likeness for any purpose not directly related to the team, the school, or an athletic association.

The bill itself is below. PennLive reports: “It remains unclear whether the Senate Education Committee plans to consider it.”