The NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted unanimously on Wednesday to expand health care coverage and academic benefits for college athletes as part of a new series of standards set to take effect in August of 2024.
Recommended by the Transformation Committee in January, the new policy also includes scholarship protections and certain standards for mental health care.
All Division I schools must now offer medical coverage for athletically related injuries for at least two years after graduation, a requirement that already existed in the Power Five conferences. The Pac-12 mandates four years of coverage. Division I programs will also be responsible for out-of-pocket medical expenses during an athlete’s playing career.
Division I athletes who had been on a full athletic scholarship will now have access to funds to complete an undergraduate degree for an entire decade after ending their playing career.
Power Five athletes already had their scholarships protected against being pulled for athletic reasons, but that protection now exists for all Division I athletes.
Division I schools will also be forced to provide mental health services in accordance with the NCAA’s mental health best practices, abide by concussion protocols, and give counsel on a variety of topics, including at minimum:
- Mental health
- Strength and conditioning
- Name, image and likeness opportunities
- Financial literacy
- Career preparation
- Transfer requirements
- Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging
- Sexual violence prevention
“Today’s vote is a substantial step in the right direction,” Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) tweeted on Wednesday. “Scholarship protections, covering medical expenses, better mental health care, and programming designed to support success after college are basic things that current and former athletes have wanted for a long time. We have a lot of work ahead to ensure the system of college athletics works for the athletes that power it.”
Brynn Carlson, the chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), called the legislation “a positive step in the right direction” while acknowledging there is more work to be done. The NCAA’s efforts to modernize its rules have been accelerating as they face a barrage of lawsuits related to their limits on athlete compensation. Last month, the NCAA lobbied Congress to create a national standard for name, image and likeness (NIL) regulations while continuing to defend amateurism.