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.
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.