College revenue bill’s fallout worries advocates of non-revenue sports

The advent of the college sports revenue-sharing bill has Olympic and women’s sports advocates concerned about the future of their programs in California.

Assembly Bill 252, introduced by Rep. Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), would require every Division 1 school in California to establish a “degree completion fund” as a contribution to their fully-scholarized athletes. A way of paying “fair market value”. The bill defines value as half of a team’s annual revenue less the cost of player grants.

The proposed law would require schools to share 50 percent of revenues with athletes deemed “undervalued” because their market value would be higher than the value of their athletic scholarships. The sports with the most revenue for Division I schools are soccer, boys basketball, and some girls basketball or volleyball teams, but few Olympic and girls sports.

Former Stanford swimmer Maya DiRado, a Maria Carrillo-Santa Rosa alumnus and four-time 2016 Olympic medalist, including two gold, is One of the former California athletes to express concern.

“I don’t have the illusion that we can make money for the university,” she told The Chronicle. “My problem with the bill is that it doesn’t seem to really reflect an understanding of how the roughly 80 percent of college athletes who don’t play these sports are going to be affected by the revenue-sharing model.”

Repeated requests for comment from the University of California, Cal State University and Houghton University were not returned. The bill was opposed by the UC and CSU systems, who argued that AB 252 would result in severe Title IX consequences and the possible elimination of non-revenue sports.

A similar proposal in the state Senate failed last year because of gender equality concerns and Title IX violations. It still faces opposition from the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, whose Athlete Advisory Council says it “positively impacts a few athletes and hurts the income of many”.

Schools can choose how to allocate income. For example, a university could decide that because of Title IX it must split funding equally across all sports, but this is not explicitly outlined in the bill.

“There’s an amendment that says you have to obey Title IX,” DiRado said. “That line takes so much, I think the way it’s just written there betrays a misunderstanding of what it actually does. It can become so unviable that you just cut sports and they turn into club sports because you can’t Keep playing those teams and try to make the pay fair.”

Under another new amendment, Division I schools would be prohibited from “cutting funding for any sport or athletic scholarship,” though experts aren’t sure how feasible that would be.

AB 252’s target operating income is currently used to fund football and men’s basketball recruiting budgets and coach salaries. However, some experts worry that revenue will come from non-revenue sports budgets as the athletic department prioritizes revenue items.

The Women’s Sports Foundation opposed the bill in a statement: “As currently structured, this bill creates unnecessary barriers for schools to comply with AB 252 and Title IX. Additionally, we know that when budgets are tight, schools and colleges make cuts. Sports; since women’s sports and men’s Olympic sports are usually the first to be axed, AB 252 puts those sports at a disadvantage.”

Keith Altman, an attorney who specializes in student advocacy, doesn’t think schools will automatically cut teams, but it’s a slippery slope when it comes to prioritizing revenue sports.

“If your premise is that only revenue-generating athletes benefit from it, how do you say which sports generate revenue in terms of marketing and ticket sales, and what counts as revenue-generating?” he said. “The Tier 1 schools aren’t operating at a loss. I suspect they’re all making money, so even if they’re making a little less money, I don’t know if they really need to cut anything unless they just choose to.”

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