USC will offer four-year athletic scholarships to all scholarship players in football, men's basketball, and women's basketball, the school announced Monday.
The new policy overrides the practice of offering one-year scholarships that were annually up for renewal. USC said four-year scholarships would be offered to current and future members of what it referred to as "revenue sports" effective July 1.
"In taking this action, USC hopes to help lead the effort to refocus on student-athlete welfare on and off the field," Athletic Director Pat Haden said in a statement released by the school.
The issue of multiple-year scholarships has been a topic of debate among NCAA-member schools for the last several years.
The NCAA had long limited athletic scholarships to one year — giving universities an annual choice whether to renew its commitment to a student-athlete — until legislation was passed in August, 2011, allowing member schools to offer scholarships spanning multiple years. However, the arrangement was nearly scrapped six months later when 62.12% of the 330 schools voting went against the legislation — just shy of the 62.5% needed to overturn the new rule.
The schools are not required to award multiple-year scholarships; it's only an option, and it is not a widespread practice.
Only six schools from the six most influential Division I conferences awarded at least 24 multiple-year scholarships in the year between the spring of 2012 and spring of 2013, according to a report by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
UCLA has offered multiple-year scholarships in certain situations but does not have a uniform policy, according to an athletic program spokesman. UCLA does support a 10-point plan of reform for the Pac-12 Conference that includes the entry: "Guarantee scholarships for enough time to complete a bachelor's degree, provided that the student remains in good academic standing."