Last month, the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), led by Executive Director Ramogi Huma, unveiled the College Athletic Protection (CAP) Agreement at a National Basketball Players Association’s camp held at the University of Virginia for the nation’s top 100 rising high school senior basketball players. CAPA and Huma previously led unsuccessful attempts for student-athlete unionization. The agreement would be the first-ever legally binding contract between a prospective college athlete and the university an athlete ultimately elects to attend.

The agreement would allow student athletes to negotiate terms such as:

  • Guaranteed multi-year scholarships that cannot be terminated;
  • Summer school scholarships;
  • Degree completion scholarships to provide continued financial support to complete undergraduate degrees if athletic eligibility has expired;
  • Stipend and reimbursement money in excess of NCAA “full” scholarship coverage;
  • Medical expense coverage for 100% of all premiums and sports-related expenses, including deductibles and copays;
  • Transfer releases; and
  • Disability Insurance.

The agreement will likely appeal to prospective student athletes because the added benefit goes beyond the amount a student athlete normally receives from a scholarship. It also increases the amount of potential bargaining power they would possess that was lacking under the standard form used by an athlete to commit to attend a school (National Letter of Intent). Once the NLI is signed, it is a binding agreement in its own right that mandates an athlete attend that institution for one calendar year, during which the school provides financial aid.

However, the NLI does not guarantee athletes the same sorts of protections being sought under Huma’s suggested agreement. Huma claims that the protections and benefits afforded by the agreement could be worth at least $100,000 above the minimum scholarship amount a student-athlete receives without violating NCAA rules. Further, the scholarship agreement, unlike the NLI, which is binding at the time an athlete signs, is not binding on an athlete until the time of enrollment. This potentially provides extra time for athletes to weigh options and see which of their potential suitors can meet the largest number of their demands requested in the scholarship agreement.

What This Means to You

It remains to be seen if the scholarship agreement developed by Huma and the CAPA will gain prominence, but if it does, college athletic departments may have to alter the way they currently conduct business. Also, the nation’s best athletes may have significantly more bargaining power when it comes to selecting the schools they will ultimately attend. Many college athletic departments, especially those attempting to recruit top talent, can likely expect to see these sorts of agreements on their desks as early as this summer. We will continue to keep an eye on this issue, so be sure to check back to the Higher Education Legal Insights blog as this issue begins to unfold.