Lost in the shadows of towering headlines about LeBron's return home, the World Cup, and the All-Star Game, there is a headline not nearly as sexy, that will change the landscape for all student athletes across our nation: Indiana University Announces Unprecedented Student-Athlete Bill of Rights.
For me this was a life long quest. From my book I'm Not Dead...Yet! (2012), I wrote my first draft of the screenplay for the Warner Bros. feature film One on One at age 17. Released in 1977, One on One was the first film to expose the inequities of the college sports system as to how young athletes can be exploited and abused. I believe that if a player is going to take on the dual challenge of college studies and athletics -- and perform in front of a stadium filled with 100,000 fans, and to millions watching on TV -- these student athletes should get two things in return: they should benefit in some way from the enormous income that is pouring into their school and the NCAA; and after their playing days are over they should have the right to return to their college on a full scholarship to complete their degree."
HBO's Real Sports revealed that although student athletes were graduating at record numbers -- those numbers included elite athletes from The University of North Carolina who were on the same reading level as their 8-year-old children.
Indiana University cares about their student-athletes' education. They understand the obscenely high percentage of student-athletes who do not fulfill their dreams once out of college; many retired in their mid-twenties with little skills and knowledge to compete with their fellow students.
IU cares to such an extent that a brave provost, an enlightened athletic director and a forward-thinking university president were willing to take the first step in changing the environment for their student athletes that I humbly believe will spread across our nation.
The Bill of Rights for student athletes at Indiana University reads:
"A central feature is the Lifetime Degree Guarantee. Under the "Hoosiers for Life" program, Indiana University will pay the tuition (plus books and fees) for an IU undergraduate degree for any scholarship student-athlete who leaves school early to tend to a family emergency, pursue a professional athletics career, or for any other reason. This program is open to any former student-athlete who was eligible for at least two seasons, left IU in good standing, did not transfer, and is readmitted under university rules."
Hope. IU has given every student athlete hope; hope to come back to school free of charge, finish their education, get a degree and leave Indiana University with skills and knowledge to make a living for their families.
On July 9th, NCAA's president followed IU's lead and called for scholarships for life in testimony before a Senate panel. When the all-powerful NCAA meets in August to discuss the current situation of the student-athlete, along with a shameful history and archaic rules, they may look to Indiana University's example as a giant first step to not only develop a warrior on the field of play, but to nurture the student who wears the warrior's uniform as well.