Mo money, mo problems? Big Ten discusses more pay for athletes

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During their conference meetings this week in Chicago, the Big Ten addressed, among many other things, whether or not players should receive more money to help pay for everyday living expenses.

It’s no surprise, really, that the discussion comes in the middle of one of the most highly-publicized scandals of the year involving conference member Ohio State. And while there is still no excuse for the fact that Jim Tressel lied/withheld information multiple times to his boss and the NCAA about previous knowledge of his players receiving impermissible benefits, the question about the benefits themselves has been its own separate controversy.

Should a player be allowed to sell what is rightfully theirs? How about when multi-billion dollar television deals reap the benefits of a player’s talent and hard work?

Besides, just about anything counts as an impermissible benefit these days, so student-athletes can’t exactly live by the same rules as a regular college student.

The Big Ten discussed bridging the gap between what an athletic scholarship pays each year and what it costs to be an everyday college student — possibly using funds generated from Big Ten Network revenue. The conference estimates roughly a $2,000-$5,000 difference between the payout of an athletic scholarship and the basic cost of living.

“How do we get back more toward the collegiate model and a regulatory system that is based more on student-athlete welfare than it is on a level playing field, where everything is about a cost issue and whether or not everybody can afford to do everything everybody else can do?” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany posed.

Delany added that the discussions are, well, just that at this point. The Big Ten has reportedly spoken with other conferences about paying players more money, most of which said they couldn’t afford it. Paying athletes in men’s basketball and football alone reportedly could cost upward of $300,000 a year.

The idea is intriguing, but there are some loopholes in the proposal that should be considered:

1. Paying athletes more money to cover the cost of living becomes a sketchy recruiting advantage. If other conferences can’t afford to pay an athlete for the cost of everyday living like the Big Ten, suddenly there is a bidding war for a player’s talents. Delany has already stated the proposal is not about creating a level playing field, but that seems to go against just about every rule in the NCAA’s book.

2. The “basic cost of living” is a subjective term . How is it determined and what are the components? Transportation? Laundry? Extra spending money? Chances are that number varies from city to city within the Big Ten conference. My basic cost of living in college was $200 per month, most of which I spent on beer.

3. A lot of fans tend to forget that when a student-athlete signs a National Letter of Intent, they forfeit a lot of luxuries to be on a team. At the same time, however, they are provided with just about every imaginable resource — on-campus living arrangements, food, academic resources, you name it. A person I spoke with at WVU who has knowledge of the daily routine of a student-athlete said they essentially have one voluntary task: go to class.

With so much provided, how much more does a player really need? No one really needs a tattoo or a 52″ Sony television.

4. If you pay the football players, you’d have to pay athletes in all school-sponsored sports. Obviously, football is a revenue sport and most others are not, but they all involve student-athletes. The girls who compete in women’s tennis are no less a college student than Terrelle Pryor.

This is obviously a topic that can’t be covered in one blog and I know I didn’t touch on all the issues; I invite you to sound off below and let us know what you think of the proposal.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

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We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.