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Pac-12 Conference approves sweeping athlete reforms

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Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott said student-athletes will be guaranteed four-year scholarships
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The Pac-12 passed sweeping changes for athletes in all of the conference's sports Monday, guaranteeing four-year scholarships, improving health care benefits and liberalizing transfer rules.

The changes announced by the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors include many of the same proposals outlined in a letter to university leaders in the five major football conferences in May. The conference also said its presidents and chancellors reaffirmed their support for stipends to cover the full cost of attendance.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has said that figure will likely range between $2,000 and $5,000 per athlete depending on the university. The 65 institutions in the five major football conferences — granted autonomy by the NCAA earlier this year — and 15 representative athletes will vote on the issue at the group's inaugural meeting in January.

Washington State President Elson Floyd, the chairman of the Pac-12's CEO Group, said in a statement that the changes announced by the conference fulfill “a promise we made when we announced our agenda for reform earlier this year.”

According to the Pac-12's new rules, all athletic scholarships will be guaranteed for four years and “can neither be reduced nor canceled provided the student-athlete remains in good standing and meets his/her terms of the agreement.” In addition, financial aid agreements offered to incoming athletes will be “for no less than four academic years” beginning in the 2015-16 academic year.

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Starting in 2016-17, if an athlete leaves an institution in good standing and has completed at least 50 percent of their degree, they can “return and receive necessary educational expenses for the remaining terms of the agreement.”

Medical expenses for athletes injured during their college careers will be covered up to four years after they leave school under a rule that goes into effect in 2015-16. Athletes who transfer between Pac-12 universities will be able to receive athletic scholarships immediately “without restriction.”

The Pac-12 also said athletes will be represented in the conference's governance structure. Final recommendations on the structure will be determined by June.

Washington gymnast McKenzie Fechter, the chair of the Pac-12 Student Athlete Advisory Committee, praised the Pac-12 for adopting the changes.

“I'm proud to be a part of a conference that is pushing reform and doing more for student-athletes,” Fechter said in a statement. “These reforms are positive steps not only for those of us who are current student-athletes, but also for those who aspire to be Pac-12 student-athletes in the future.”

The Pac-12 also said its presidents and chancellors discussed how it could lessen the time demands on athletes. The conference said it will continue to examine the subject with athletes and leaders at the other major football conferences, which include the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference.

“As a former student-athlete myself, I believe these reforms will mean a great deal to student-athletes in the Pac-12,” Scott said in a statement. “These reforms will ensure they enjoy a positive collegiate sports experience, and graduate with a meaningful college degree. This set of reforms also address various health and financial concerns that student-athletes have expressed to me in the many conversations I've had with them, while preserving the essence of the collegiate experience that has served so many student-athletes so well.

“I am very proud of the national leadership position our presidents, chancellors, athletics directors, senior women administrators, faculty athletic representatives, and other administrators have taken.”

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