UGA upped its ante for insurance on Gurley

Sources close to the situation confirmed Monday that UGA recently increased to $10 million the amount of insurance coverage it had on Gurley. That policy, provided by International Specialty Insurance at a cost of about $50,000, was established to provide Gurley with $5 million in “total permanent disability” coverage (in the event he was unable to play football again) and $5 million in “loss of value” benefits (should his professional prospects be diminished).

UGA officials, citing federal privacy laws, declined to discuss what kind of insurance it has provided for Gurley. But due to some recent actions taken by the NCAA, Georgia was in position to take some special measures to protect Gurley against financial loss due to injury.

In 2012, the NCAA established the Student-Athlete Assistance Fund. Its function is “to provide direct benefits to student-athletes or their families as determined by conference offices,” according to the NCAA’s website. That fund had $73.5 million in it as of August of 2013.

It has only been recently, however, that some of those monies have been accessed by NCAA schools to provide insurance for student-athletes with exceptional pro potential. Gurley, who was considered a Heisman Trophy front-runner before being hit with a four-game NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits, meets the requirements for such a distinction.

“It’s kind of new,” said Jim Booz, UGA’s senior associate athletic director for compliance. “It’s not very prevalent. It’s not very widely known. And frankly, there probably aren’t but a handful of elite student-athletes that an insurance company would sell that kind of policy to.

“It’s not like each school in Division I has five or 10 of those kinds of athletes on their campus. I would think they’re very few and far between.”

Before, student-athletes who were evaluated as high-grade professionals were issued a waiver by the NCAA that allowed them to borrow money against future earnings to purchase total disability policies. Now schools can access the student-athlete assistance fund on the player’s behalf with conference offices serving as administrators for their member institutions.

Georgia had already done that before Gurley was suspended by UGA for accepting improper benefits from memorabilia dealers on Oct. 9. It was after the school had completed its investigation and was waiting to hear from Gurley’s attorney — William King of the Birmingham law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White — on whether to apply for his reinstatement that the additional insurance was provided.

Gurley, playing his first game since serving a four-game suspension, suffered a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he was tackled after a six-yard gain with 5:21 remaining in the Bulldogs’ 34-7 win over Auburn on Saturday.

“We’re heartbroken that it occurred,” UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity said. “It certainly put a damper on a great win Saturday. But we’re going to do everything we can to assist (Gurley) in his recovery and rehabilitation. We’ll do just like we did with Aaron Murray and other kids who have experienced situations like this. We’re here to help and we’re going to be with him every step of the way.”

While it was not a career-ending injury, it could potentially cause Gurley to fall in next spring’s NFL draft, thus enacting the loss of value benefit.

A 6-foot-1, 226-pound junior tailback, Gurley qualifies for underclassman early-entry after this season and projected as a potential top-10 selection in the 2015 NFL draft before the injury. As a projected first-rounder, Gurley would qualify for the full $5 million benefit if he went undrafted, a very unlikely scenario. However, he could be compensated on a pro rata basis if he dropped out of the first round, depending on where he’s finally selected.

On his most recent draft board updated before last weekend’s games, ESPN’s Mel Kiper had Gurley going with the eighth pick overall. Last season, that slot commanded a four-year, $12.8 million contract with a $7.65 million signing bonus for Cleveland defensive back Justin Gilbert. The determination of a prospect’s pro potential is ultimately made by the respective player association advisory boards of each sport.

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