Are Injured College Players Eligible For Social Security Disability Insurance?

There is always risk when playing sports — especially at a near-professional level on a prestigious school’s high-profile team. These injuries might be minor or they might be catastrophic and career-ending. Some sports are more inherently dangerous than others: those who play rugby or football are much more likely to suffer serious injury than a soccer or basketball player. What financial protections are in place for college athletes who get injured?

In general, a person who suffers a debilitating injury would simply file a claim for social security disability insurance (SSDI). But here’s the rub: if you’re a college player seriously injured while playing the sport, you haven’t really paid into the pool for disability insurance, which means you’re probably either ineligible or not eligible for much.

Most college athletics programs are governed by the NCAA, which recently requested new regulatory action from Congress. While we wait for new rules to travel down the pipeline, here’s what we know based on the rules as they are right now: the NCAA is required to guarantee disability coverage to all players under its umbrella of protection. 

There are two primary types of coverage: PTD and ESDI. The first is permanent total disability (PTD) coverage, which is actually granted through the second: Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance (ESDI). The latter form of insurance grants protections for both injuries and illnesses sustained during a college program that could preclude them from ever playing at the professional level.

Part of the reason for this insurance is based on what we already mentioned: SSDI primarily covers those who have paid into the pool. College players haven’t worked long enough to do that, which means they don’t have eligibility. And even if they did, they’d be looking at a potentially years-long waiting period for a weak benefit that amounts to pennies on the dollar.

The NCAA doesn’t offer Loss-of-Value coverage (LOV) because the benefits have yet to be proved. Most players won’t even need to consider LOV coverage, but the NCAA recommends anyone expected to be in the top 10 of a draft make this a consideration. Those who are projected to be in the top 10 can guarantee an easy claim because the earnings they stand to be compensated for would be obvious.

The NCAA provides a certain amount of funding to schools dependent on need, but it’s up to the schools themselves to decide how to allocate those funds. That means some schools can and will give students a portion of the funding to purchase policies that exceed the required PTD insurance. These students should keep in mind that these policies are sometimes taxable — and the funds don’t cover those taxes. Students are responsible for Uncle Sam’s cut.

Before purchasing LOV coverage, students should shop around. Reading the fine print is as important as getting the best price. These types of coverage are sometimes negotiable — and this is a good time to practice your negotiating skills because you’ll be using them often in professional sports.

NCAA Tournament Expectations: Who Was Expected To Fail?

Back when the NCAA tournament bracket was first released, there were high expectations for some teams — and very low expectations for others. It takes a lot of hard work to build a strong team foundation, but sometimes it comes down to plain dumb luck. Here are the college teams that were expected to fall the hardest during that tournament.

Tennessee was expected to stumble when facing Oregon State due to a number of injuries sustained — especially those incurred by forward John Fulkerson, who fractured his face. He suffered a concussion as well. 

One coach said Tennessee would flop because: “They haven’t been able to find consistent outside shooting. They have too many guys who come off the bench and don’t always fit with the other guys, Victor Bailey being one of them. Some of their issues are that they only really have one point guard, Santiago Vescovi. He’s the only one of them who can truly get other guys [the] shots.”

Georgetown “enjoyed” a record of nearly equal victories and defeats, and was matched up against Colorado in the first round. But not everyone is convinced they belong in the tournament. 

Another coach described their vulnerabilities on the field: “I’m always wary of teams that put everything into something. There is a danger of a letdown once they accomplish something. What they did was so rare. I was shocked by what they did….They’ve never been much of a challenge defensively. They’ve been playing with a competitiveness and toughness we haven’t seen.”

USC has a mostly victorious record, but they’re matched up against Drake in the first round. The experts still don’t know what to expect: “They’re like the team that looks the part in the layup line, but if you punch them in the mouth, they’ll fold. They don’t have a point guard, and that prevents them from playing the style they’d like.”

Can An Injured Athlete Sue The Athletic Organization?

The quick answer is, in general, “no.” Athletic organizations do assume liability for certain kinds of fault. For example, they have the responsibility for the upkeep of equipment and other types of infrastructure including buildings. An injury that results from a failure to maintain the infrastructure might open a sports organization to serious liability. By contrast, players must sign waivers before they are allowed into the field. A tackle that results in a major injury doesn’t open up a sports organization to liability.

Any personal injury law firm would be happy to take on a case with a justified foundation, but because liability on behalf of sports organizations is rare, these cases are equally uncommon. Instead, injured players tend to seek compensation of the mind instead of compensation of the purse. What do we mean by that?

Take Victoria Hensh, for example: She enrolled in College Park in August 2019 as an NCAA Division I lacrosse player — until she tore her ACL and meniscus. It wasn’t a permanent injury, but it was more than enough to put her on the bench for months.

Hensh said, “It is so hard coming into a school. That was my freshman year, and I didn’t really know that many people, and I wasn’t really sure how to open up to people about an injury that was so serious. After the first few weeks, I just felt like I didn’t know what to do.”

But other players had already found a way to cope with the personal struggle of injury at the beginning of what one would hope to be a storied career in athletics. Other Terps players had formed the “Injured Athletes Club,” meeting bi-weekly as a group to speak with the university psychologist about their thoughts and feelings. Sometimes talking is better than a paycheck.

Hensh eventually returned to lacrosse triumphantly. But she said it was thanks to the club: “Without that, I think that would have been really tough for me, that feeling every day like I’m going through it alone when I was going through it with some of my best friends on the team. I think having such a place, I brought up a lot of things that I wouldn’t have thought to tell people. Even on days when I didn’t feel like talking, in those meetings, I talked, and that ultimately made those days better. So I think it really limited the number of bad days that I had, and it helped me cope with how to handle coming back from an injury.”

Dr. Michelle Garvin said, “We thought it might be good for me to come in and talk to them about what to prepare for. We decided to do it as a group, and after the first session, we thought that it was great and was going well.”

Garvin acknowledges that there is a surprising lack of emotional support for those training to become professional athletes because we perceive these people as “stronger” as the rest of us. But that’s not always the case — and everyone needs a shoulder to cry on sometimes.

Do College Sports Require More Diversity Recruitment?

Colleges have long been seen as sort of bastions for liberal policies and social justice warriors — but as if the world hadn’t turned upside down enough in the past year or so, Fox News recently reported on a survey done by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida, which found that diverse hiring and recruitment practices by college campuses paled in comparison to those by professional sports organizations. Didn’t see that coming.

TIDES assigned the 2019-20 season a “C,” with a “B” for racially diverse hiring practices and a “C+” for gender hiring. 

Lead report author Richard Lapchick said, “When you put it in historical perspective of some of the really important questions, the numbers are barely moving.”

The survey found that people of color were present in much lower numbers in the Football Bowl Subdivision of college athletics than they were in professional sports organizations like the NBA or NFL.

NCAA senior vice president for inclusion, education, and community engagement Derrick Gragg said, “As organizations work to provide better diversity and inclusion, athletic leaders can also take significant steps to open more doors to people of color and women. There are too many diversity hiring gaps in college sports, and this racial and gender diversity report reveals that.”

Even worse, the report found that the number of overall head coaches who are people of color has declined over the past season. 

The Seattle Mariners have put forth a program at the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University to promote diversity.

Executive Vice President of the Mariners Fred Rivera said, “Our Seattle teams share the goal of addressing historic inequities and creating opportunities in sports and entertainment leadership. This program aligns with the Mariners commitment to invest in racial equity programs and initiatives. We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the Kraken as well as Seattle University on this long-term program to make progress breaking down barriers for entry into the sports industry.”

Explaining The Amateur Athletes Protection And Compensation Act Of 2021

We recently discussed the new legislation put forth by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), the Amateur Athletes Protection and Compensation Act of 2021 — but we left out one of the most important aspects of the bill, which serves to protect young college athletes. The bill was reintroduced earlier this year after it failed to move toward the end of 2020. Moran’s bill is important because it makes several compromises to serve as its foundation, neither taking a hardline nor a softball approach to the controversial subject matter.

The NCAA recently barred athletes from taking third-party endorsements (and the corresponding pay) in an effort to preempt breaking a recent law implemented in California. Moran’s bill would allow such endorsements as long as they are in line with the student code of conduct at the school where they play — which has to be good news for college athletes, who absolutely need that money just to keep up with the bills. 

The rub is that athletes can’t sign a deal for compensation from a professional sports league. 

We mentioned that the new legislation from Washington DC would allow college athletes to transfer from one school to another without losing their eligibility for these deals — but we forgot to mention they can only do it once under the law’s guidelines. 

Moran said, “The Amateur Athletes Protection and Compensation Act would create a national standard of guidelines to make certain student athletes can benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness without hurting their eligibility to compete as a student athlete. Athletics teach young men and women many valuable skills that serve them throughout their life, and it’s important to protect their ability to pursue an education while allowing them to capitalize on their name, image and likeness as a student athlete.”

We don’t expect the bill to make any headway soon because of COVID-19 relief disagreements. The economy has been steadily improving, but there’s still work to do. The legislation certainly won’t move ahead in the first 100 days of the Biden administration.

This is an issue for the NCAA because state laws are advancing at a rapid pace — and without a uniform set of guidelines, it will be hell for the college sports organization to dance from one state’s laws to the next state’s laws. A previous NIL legislation had been expected before Biden was even sworn in, but was delayed due to Alston v. NCAA, which legislators expect to have major consequences on antitrust claims. The NCAA has presented some opposition to more liberal state laws even as it faces blowback for not taking a hardline approach to allowing trans men and women to play on sports teams of the gender with which they identify.

 

New Congressional Bill Introduced To Add Protections For College Athletes

Most people have no idea how college sports programs work. During the course of a season at a college with a high-profile team, a new student might be scouted — and even asked to sign a deal that would go into effect after the student graduates. A new bill introduced by Senator Jerry Morgan (R-Kansas) would limit the types of deals that a student can take. It’s goal is to increase protections and reduce the likelihood of someone trying to take advantage of the student.

Another aspect of college sports the layman might not know about is the medical coverage athletic departments must provide students. The bill would provide a boon to this kind of coverage. In addition, new rules would guide how student athletes transfer from one college to another. This would prevent a student from losing his or her eligibility.

Moran said, “It is vital to establish a consistent national standard for universities and student-athletes. This bill strikes an appropriate balance as we work to empower amateur athletes while maintaining the integrity of college sports that we all know and love.”

The bill (and others like it) was a direct response from a request made by NCAA President Mark Emmert to create rules to determine how student athletes generate income through sports. A California law passed in 2019 would make many NCAA policies borderline illegal in the near future. That’s why the NCAA barred athletes from accepting payments by third-parties, a move that caused significant blowback.

The NCAA leadership has acknowledged the need for significant change in how college sports are handled, but they wish to balance professionalism with what at the core is a program to foster growth in new athletes searching for a career in a particular sport. It isn’t clear whether or not Moran’s bill stands a good chance of passing the Senate.

What Is Gender Equity In Sports?

We recently discussed the wave of laws at the state level that have been put forward — and in Idaho’s case, passed — in order to prevent trans players from playing on teams that share their gender (keep in mind that biological sex is whether or not a person is born male or female, while gender is a social construct based on how people feel). The new legislation has advocates arguing for greater inclusion to foster a sense of safety and support for trans players — but others have taken the fight one step further, asking why gender equity hasn’t become the norm.

“Equality” means we give everyone the same chances. “Equity” means we give people what they need. Here’s an example: a child has a minor cut, and the parent prescribes a band-aid. Another child shatters his leg, and the parent prescribes a band-aid. This is equality — but it isn’t equity, because the second child obviously needs a cast to heal properly. Society is only recently beginning to apply this concept to race and gender. We’re more apt to understand that different groups of people might need equity, not equality, because of their experiences in life or the way society as a whole treats them.

A Maitland Family Law Lawyer commented, “It’s not unusual for legal cases to be founded upon the principle that gender roles have no place in sports, at home, or in the workplace. And most people are coming to realize that’s the truth. It’s only a matter of time before women and trans men are allowed to play on men’s teams — because the bottom line is this: they are every bit as capable.”

Remember Nat’l Organization for Women v Little League Baseball, Inc.? The court decision upheld the right of girls aged 8 to 12 to play in Little League sports. The defendants argued that Little League only funneled its resources into players who would likely continue to play into adulthood — and the girls obviously wouldn’t, because there is no place for them in men’s baseball. The court describes these arguments as “stereotyped conceptions” relating to the “needs, capabilities and aspirations for the female, child or woman.”

As a result, some Little League teams disbanded.

In 2021, advocates for trans and women’s rights are arguing that embedded stereotypes don’t diminish after childhood, and that trans women and women should have every opportunity afforded to men.

One effort to increase understanding and equity in sports was put forth in New Jersey — The Civil Rights Data Collection. This data would be provided to the public for free and provide relevant demographic information about the number of boys and girls playing in a given sport at the high school level. This information would be used to compel the schools into compliance with existing equality laws in order to increase equity for the foreseeable future. 

Because of these programs, additional teams have been created to allow women to play — but some are arguing that they don’t go far enough. Why are there “men’s” and “women’s” teams at all?

Why Are College Athletes Asking The NCAA To Pull Championships?

The question of whether or not trans athletes should be allowed to play on male or female sports teams that are in opposition of their biological sex has been ongoing for a while now. Advocates for inclusion argue that we live in a diverse society and that barring trans athletes from certain sports teams would do little more than inflame athletes for no reason. The opposition contends that including trans athletes would be too unfair. 

Many state legislatures have been working to pass laws that bar trans women from playing on women’s sports teams and trans men from playing on men’s sports. Two such bills are on the move in Mississippi and South Dakota, while another has already passed muster in Idaho.

Now, hundreds of college athletes have come forward, signing a letter drafted to the NCAA to request pulling championships from those states with anti-inclusivity laws on the books.

The letter begins, “We, the undersigned NCAA student-athletes, are extremely frustrated and disappointed by the lack of action taken by the NCAA to recognize the dangers of hosting events in states that create a hostile environment for student-athletes.”

The letters continues by addressing NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA’s Board of Governors directly: “You have been silent in the face of hateful legislation in states that are slated to host championships, even though those states are close to passing anti-transgender legislation.”

The complaint found support from GLAAD and Athlete Ally, and was signed by athletes attending a diverse set of around 85 schools including Ivy League institutions.

The state laws barring trans players allow a sports team to force a player to undergo a genital exam, genetics test, or hormone test to determine biological sex if called into question. 

The letter continued, “It is imperative that we know we are safe and supported in the NCAA no matter where we travel to compete. The NCAA claims to prioritize the safety, excellence, and physical and emotional well being of its student athletes and asserts that all athletes deserve a fair shot.”

So far, they do not.

Some Analysts Contend That Colleges Were Already Failing Before Coronavirus Crisis

We recently published an article exploring the possibility that colleges might soon go bankrupt as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis — but many financial analysts were quick to remind us that this is a problem that has been brewing for years. Coronavirus might be the final nail in the coffin, but it certainly wasn’t the first. As of late 2019, one in five colleges were already on track to face bankruptcy in 10 to 25 years.

A traditional debt settlement law firm might help college personnel avoid bankruptcy, but won’t necessarily prevent a college from “going out of business” in the traditional sense. This is especially true when you consider the reasons for the financial stress: fewer students wish to continue onto higher education because of rapidly climbing costs, and others don’t feel like they have the financial capabilities to enroll in the first place.

Moody Investor Services Associate Managing Director Susan Fitzgerald commented on the financial pressure colleges are experiencing: “It’s here to stay. I think we see the higher education sector is in a period of real transformation in terms of how students learn and where they learn.”

Another reason that schools are shuttering their doors forever is based on demographics in certain geographic locations like the Northeast, where much of the population is aging and the younger generations simply don’t have as many kids. In 2019, Green Mountain College closed in Vermont. It had been offering higher education to students for 185 years when officials made the decision to close up shop. Newbury College in Massachusetts also closed in 2019. 

Former Newbury College President Joseph Chillo, “It is no secret that weighty financial challenges are pressing on liberal arts colleges throughout the country. Newbury College is no exception.”

Massachusetts Mount Ida College closed in 2018 without much lip service, which left around 1,500 students wondering how they would transfer credits or complete their education. This particular closure resulted in a new state law to force state education officials to make private college financial woes known to the public. 

Many of the most vulnerable liberal arts schools rely on sports programs to keep them afloat — and we, in turn, love covering those programs. But sports won’t be enough to repair the recent damage done by the COVID-19 crisis. That means many schools are rethinking how they approach revenue. What that means for sports programs in general is anyone’s guess. It could go either way: there might be unprecedented growth in the number of programs, or the school closures might result in the unprecedented decline of sports programs.

Hiram College President Lori Varlotta said, “We’ve added new majors to our conventional liberal arts programs; majors that we call market-driven; majors that pave a very concrete pathway to various types of 21st-century careers.”

Because liberal arts colleges are experiencing this period of financial turmoil, many more are trying to make the transition to business or science to prop up the reduction in revenue.

Will Fans Return To Football This Autumn?

The recent depression of national interest in football is a common story after February’s dismal Super Bowl ratings. The expectations in the run-up to the big event were high, after all, in part because it was assumed that a year of being shut-up indoors for quarantine or social distancing would spur excitement — finally, something to be happy about! But that’s not the way it happened. 

Stadiums were obviously not filled to capacity because of general COVID-19 precautions and restrictions, but why on Earth were television ratings down? Fans of football had nothing to do but sit at home and watch the game!

This has the directors of college sports programs especially worried. Many universities were forced to cut spending on sports programs (others actually took the opposite approach, but they were the minority), and rely on crowded stadiums to generate sufficient revenue to justify a team’s existence. What happens to college sports if the fans don’t come back this fall?

Dynamic Pricing Partners recently conducted a survey that provided a promising result: 72 percent of colleges believe crowds this fall will lead to full stadiums.

Dr. Michael Lauzardo, the Florida Director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF Health, said, “I want to be in a full stadium again. I want to be able to watch the game with people in the stadiums without cardboard cut-outs.” He added, “The more you’ve been in lockdown, the more you’re in lockdown. You’re just scared. You’re worried. It just messes with you.”

But others suggest stadiums might not fill up at all because the mob mentality regarding these public gatherings has already evolved. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “There is a psychology of public assembly that will probably evolve. People are going to have to ask themselves if they want to sit cheek by jowl with people they don’t know and maybe people that don’t have masks. You don’t know if they’re vaccinated or not.”