Friday, March 16, 2007

Former UCLA Linebacker Sues NCAA

Ramogi Huma's crusade to change NCAA rules and help "student-athletes" will lead him to court in June, and if his Collegiate Athletes Coalition is victorious, athletes could receive another $2,500 to $3,000 each year for incidental expenses, which the NCAA eliminated in 1973 to cut costs.

Huma, a former UCLA linebacker and the founder of group, saw firsthand had damaging NCAA rules were to athletes. Teammate Donnie Edwards was suspended when he accepted groceries after his scholarship money ran out.

Huma experienced difficulty himself. Although the former linebacker's scholarship paid for tuition, books, food and housing, it didn't cover toothpaste, travel expenses or phone bills. He applied for credit cards to help pay the bills and planned to work in the summers to pay off the debt. "But when I was playing, I wasn't allowed to work because the NCAA didn't allow it," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

When Huma graduated in 1998, he owed $6,000 at 19% interest.

This led to Huma forming CAC, and last year it filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of 20,000 current and former Division I-A football and major Division I basketball players. The suit has the backing of the Pittsburgh-based United Steel Workers, which once described the NCAA as a "sweatshop."

NCAA president Myles Brand declined comment on the lawsuit in an interview with Brent Schrotenboer of the San Diego Union-Tribune, but he defended the NCAA's tax-exempt status and spending growth in athletics.

"I don't want to take away the tax breaks we get in athletics, because that doesn't solve any problems as far as I'm concerned," Brand said. "[Schools] have to learn how to spend smarter, not necessarily spend more. That's the key."

Thanks to reader Mike and The Sports Economist.

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