The fight for the future of college athletics has a ground zero. Welcome to the Big Ten.
No conference’s athletes and administrators have made bigger or more important moves than the Big Ten, and that trend continued Friday, when Indiana University announced its student-athlete bill of rights.
Just days ago, the Big Ten presidents released a statement proposing seemingly common-sense reforms to the student-athlete experience that included improvements to scholarships and medically related financial assistance. But Indiana took the matter into its own hands Friday with their bill of rights, which addresses those subjects and more, ones that echo the changes called for by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and his College Athletes Players Association this winter.
Indiana’s student-athletes bill of rights establishes a wide-ranging number of guarantees for its student-athletes across all sports — an important note considering the fight over improving benefits for college athletes have typically centered around the so-called revenue sports of football and basketball.
[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten presidents propose scholarship, medical improvements]
Indiana is promising many things to its student-athletes, much of which is already in place in Bloomington and universities across the country. But it’s reinforced here. Some of the more important items include:
— Scholarships are guaranteed to cover the entire cost of attendance at IU.
— Scholarships are guaranteed for four years, even if a student-athlete cannot compete due to injury or an emergency.
— Scholarships are guaranteed even if a student-athlete decides to leave school, including to pursue a professional career.
— Medical care is provided at no cost to student-athletes. This includes mention of school-supplied food as well as Indiana’s intention to pursue longer dead periods through the NCAA.
— The school promises “a collective voice,” which includes athlete representation as well as the ability to address any concerns in the athletics department.
[MORE BIG TEN: After Big Ten proposals, are Kain Colter, CAPA winners?]
"We are proud to be the first higher education institution ever to publish a Student-Athlete Bill of Rights," said Indiana AD Fred Glass in the school’s release. "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 have committed to this extensive set of benefits and set it out transparently in writing, so that we can be held accountable for them by our student-athletes and other stakeholders such as our faculty and trustees. While no other school has done this, we hope that others will follow for the betterment of the student-athlete experience."
It truly is a groundbreaking document in the wake of these proposals being discussed on the national level. Instead of waiting for the slow gears of the NCAA to grind, however, Indiana has adopted them instantaneously.
[MORE BIG TEN: Siemian on Northwestern union: 'It's not even an issue now']
As mentioned, many of the specifics have been discussed before and were even proposed by the Big Ten presidents earlier this week. The biggest difference? A mention and promise of the “seat at the table” that Colter and CAPA have demanded since their initial announcement earlier this year. It was the one big thing missing from the Big Ten presidents’ statement, and though Indiana might not be promising much actual decision-making power, they certainly are taking care to include student-athletes in certain discussions.
Friday’s announcement from Indiana is the latest in a series of Big Ten-centered instances during the ongoing debate over the future of college athletics. First came Colter’s impassioned arguments and his unionization attempt at Northwestern. Then came an ongoing series of comments from commissioner Jim Delany, including his testimony at the Ed O’Bannon trial. The came this week’s statement from the Big Ten presidents. Now Indiana’s student-athlete bill of rights.
No conference is making more news (or more headway) in reformation than the Big Ten, its universities or its student-athletes. It’s a conversation that’s nowhere over, but it’s one being dominated by the Big Ten.