Commissioners Discussing Possibility of Providing Stipends to Student-Athletes

COMMENTARY | Recently, there has been a renewed interest among college conference commissioners in providing college athletes with more than just an athletic scholarship. The main reasons cited by the conference commissioners for considering increasing the student-athletes allowances is the increase of TV revenue and the escalating of coaches salaries.

It is about time that people in the power positions in the NCAA has come to a realization that there needs to be some sort of alteration in the current student-athlete financial award. Although an athletic scholarship can be valuable, there are many athletes (just like the overall student population) that struggle with coming up with money to do laundry, buy clothes and have fun every once a while.

This assessment is also considering how much revenue the NCAA and some individual schools rake in from athletic events. Take the recently signed TV deals in football and basketball where the NCAA and their membership is guaranteed at least $11.3 billion. The NCAA deal with ESPN for the right to broadcast all five BCS bowl games is worth $500 million over four years, while the NCAA’s deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting for the men’s basketball tournament is for $10.8 billion over 14 years.

Just as the TV revenue has escalated as a form of revenue so has the cost of coaches’ salaries in basketball and football. In 2010, at least 25 of the 347 Division I basketball coaches and 57 of the 120 Bowl Championship Subdivision Football Coaches were scheduled to make $1 million without taking into count any bonus or other outside income.

The most discussed and most likely scenario if the NCAA does extend the “payments” to students-athletes beyond the traditional scholarship is a “full cost of attendance” stipend. Currently, an athlete scholarship only covers the cost of tuition, books and room and board. The “full cost of attendance” stipend would possibly add transportation, clothes and laundry expenses among other things to what is already included in the scholarship. This stipend could increase the value of the scholarship by $2,000 to $5,000 per athlete.

A thing to remember is that if a conference decides to implement this “full cost of attendance” stipend they would be required to get legislative approval of the full NCAA membership. A concern of this new proposal could be that some conferences such as the Big Ten, Big East and Big 12 conferences would possibly be able to provide the extra funds easier. If a conference could create a distinct competitive advantage for teams in their conference it would not be good for the college sports and would likely go against the purported concept of the NCAA.