A bill moving through the Assembly would require UCLA and UC Berkeley to break with decades' worth of tradition and begin paying stipends to their student athletes.

Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, introduced the bill to address what she and the bill's sponsors consider to be an inequity within the world of college athletics - the fact that big-time schools can sign lucrative licensing deals for their sports programs while the athletes themselves may struggle to pay living expenses.

As currently written, Brown's bill only applies to public universities that earn at least $20 million per year in licensing fees for various products, such as replica jerseys or appearances in video games. That leaves out every public university in California except for UCLA and UC Berkeley. If the bill passes, those two schools would be required to provide full five-year scholarships to students who receive athletic scholarships as well as $3,600 stipends to be paid from media rights and licensing revenues.

"We just think it was fair to give them living expenses. It's not a salary," said Brown, adding that her bill is intended to give students who begin attending college on a one-year scholarship will be able to afford to finish their studies if they cannot play sports during their entire time in school.


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"Why not sign them up for five years, so that they'll have some stability?," the assemblywoman asked.

Representatives for the NCAA and UCLA could not be reached for comment Monday. UC Berkeley and the Pacific 12 Conference said they had no comment as of Monday on Brown's bill.

The question remains whether the NCAA would consider any UCLA or Cal athletes who receive a stipend to be amateurs, and thus eligible for play, under the organization's rules.

It's also possible that the NCAA may sue the state to prevent Brown's bill from going into effect, if it indeed passes.

"I don't know if they've taken an official position on this, but I imagine they would file a lawsuit to enjoin California from implementing this law," said Michael McCann, professor at University of New Hampshire School of Law and a sports law columnist for Sports Illustrated.

Brown called attention to her bill as sports fans awaited the finale to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, popularly known as "March Madness." The Louisville Cardinals and Michigan Wolverines earned the right to compete in Monday's title game, but the Cardinals went to the championship round without player Kevin Ware, who broke his leg on live television during an earlier match against the Duke Blue Devils.

In the wake of Ware's injury, Adidas began selling a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "Ri5e to the Occasion" and Ware's number, 5, substituting for the letter "s" in the word "Rise."

Although the shirt is no longer available for sale on Louisville's website, a sales description stated the shirt was "created as a respectful tribute" to Ware and that a portion of sales would be donated to Louisville's scholarship fund.

In a statement, Brown decried Adidas' decision to sell the shirt in the first place was unconscionable and that she was pleased the garment has been pulled from sales.

An Adidas spokeswoman told USA Today the shirts had been pulled from sales due to a "logo issue. "

The question of whether scholarships are sufficient compensation for student athletes has been asked for years before anyone took offense to this particular T-shirt.

The National College Players Association, founded by former UCLA football player Ramogi Huma, sponsored Brown's bill. Huma said student athletes need financial benefits beyond their scholarships to afford basic living expenses such as parking and school supplies, and that he was inspired to found the NCPA after teammate Donnie Edwards was suspended for accepting groceries.

"It's definitely tough to get by. A lot of players put expenses on credit cards. Some players break the rules. It's a tough situation to be in," Huma said.

Huma suggested that if the idea of stipends is unacceptable to the NCAA, the organization could change its scholarship policy to include expenses that are not presently covered.

Brown's bill, A.B. 475, has passed the Assembly Rules Committee by unanimous vote. It's next stop is the Higher Education Committee.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed California's existing Student-Athlete Bill of Rights last year. That law required California universities earning more than $10 million per year in media revenues provide equivalent scholarships to student athletes who lose their ability to play due to injury as well as those who exhaust their NCAA eligibility before completing their degree, among other provisions.

The 2012 law was written by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima. Due to its media revenue threshold, it applies to only UCLA, USC, UC Berkeley and Stanford.