The Big Ten Conference said Tuesday that it supports guaranteed four-year scholarships and improved medical coverage for its athletes.
The league announced in a statement signed Tuesday by its 14 presidents that it proposes working within the NCAA structure to provide greater academic security for its athletes by guaranteeing scholarships for four years, even if an athlete can no longer compete or has left for a professional career. Athletic scholarships are typically awarded on a one-year renewable basis.
The Big Ten also said the Indianapolis-based NCAA must do "whatever it takes" to compensate athletes for the full cost of their college education as defined by the federal government — rather than just tuition, fees and room and board.
The conference also said it would like to review the NCAA rules on medical insurance and provide more consistent coverage.
"We have an obligation to protect their health and well-being in return for the physical demands placed upon them," the league said.
The NCAA has been sued by a number of former athletes over compensation issues challenging the organization's bedrock of amateurism.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney testified last week at an antitrust trial against the NCAA filed by former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon.
The league said Delaney conveyed sentiments long supported by the conference and its members, and the Pac-12 and SEC have recently released statements closely mirroring the Big Ten's proposals.
The Big Ten also reiterated its opposition to a "pay-for-play" system for football and men's basketball players, arguing that compensating those players will "skew the overall academic endeavor" for all of its students.
The league said that using the revenue generated from football and basketball players to compensate those athletes would force member schools to reduce funding or even eliminate some non-Olympic sports while creating "intolerable" inequities.
"The amateur model is not broken, but it does require adjusting for the 21st century. Whether we pay student-athletes is not the true issue here. Rather, it is how we as universities provide a safe, rewarding and equitable environment for our student-athletes as they pursue their education," the league said.
The NCAA in 2011 passed legislation allowing universities to offer multiyear scholarships, though many schools have been slow or reluctant to do so.
Andrew Brandt, a sports business analyst for ESPN and former executive with the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers, said a decision this week by the University of Southern California to offer four-year agreements may give its football and basketball programs a recruiting advantage over other schools where one-year scholarships haven’t been renewed.
“They can now point to all the examples of players that were once top recruits but were non-renewed based on unforeseen circumstances,” Brandt said in an e-mail. “This will give them an advantage, assuming an arms race doesn’t develop and we see much more of this.”
Brandt said many schools haven’t offered multiyear athletic scholarships in the past because they haven’t had to compete with other universities doing it. The Chronicle of Higher Education said in a 2013 report that 35 of 56 schools surveyed said they offered multiyear scholarships, though they comprised less than 10 percent of all athletic scholarships.