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Last updated: Sat. Jun. 28, 2014 - 11:12 am EDT

IU to guarantee 4-year scholarships

University trumpets new ‘student-athlete bill of rights’

FORT WAYNE — Indiana University unveiled a “student-athlete bill of rights” Friday that guarantees athletes four-year scholarships and the ability to finish degrees later in life.

“For all of its nearly 200 years, Indiana has been a leader,” IU President Michael McRobbie said in a statement. “That visionary leadership continues with (the) publication of the first student-athlete bill of rights.”

While four-year scholarships in revenue sports such as football have been available at other schools in the past, IU trumpeted its bill of rights because it eliminates the possibility of student-athletes having their scholarships revoked in the middle of their careers and because, save for those who transfer from Indiana, they can return at any time and finish their degree on scholarship.

Emmett Gill, the national director for the Student Athlete Human Rights Project, told The Journal Gazette he was unaware of any other lifetime-degree guarantees.

“That’s why I think Indiana’s piece is so impressive,” Gill said. “Not only have they looked beyond one year, they’ve looked beyond four years. For student-athletes, that’s just tremendous.

“Student-athletes can leave school anywhere between $5,000 to $25,000 in debt and they can’t come back. The casual sports fan doesn’t understand that.”

The announcement came on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement by Big Ten presidents and chancellors that universities should “address the conflicts that have led us to a moment where the conversation about college sports is about compensation rather than academics.”

The NCAA model has been under fire as Northwestern athletes have pushed to form a union and the Ed O’Bannon vs. NCAA trial has challenged the definition of amateurism in college sports.

The Big Ten presidents and chancellors called for several of the changes that IU followed through with Friday.

“We are proud,” IU athletic director Fred Glass, an Indianapolis attorney before taking over at his alma mater, said in a statement. “We hope that others will follow. We developed the bill of rights to identify not only what we were currently doing for our student-athletes but what we should be doing. We set it out in writing so that we can be held accountable.”

The plan also addresses areas such as academic and athletic support, culture, health and the cost of education.

If approved by the NCAA, Indiana said it will also cover the full cost of attendance.

Indiana will also begin buying all student-athletes iPads they can keep. And they will be provided use of the career and counseling placement center after graduation.

“The bill of rights sends a profound message that our school values what we do long after our playing days are over,” said Indiana field hockey player Nicole Volgraf, president of Indiana’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

With the scholarship guarantee, only voluntary departure, an ineligibility ruling or a university or team rule violation could alter the commitment. Scholarships cannot be revoked because of injury, illness or performance.

“I can speak to how stressful it is for a student-athlete to have to be evaluated on a yearly basis,” Gill said. “Coaches tend to dangle a scholarship in front of a student-athlete to motivate them. That’s a very stressful situation.”

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