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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.

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40 Responses to “Mo money, mo problems? Big Ten discusses more pay for athletes”
  1. WingT says: May 18, 2011 9:58 PM

    It’s pretty complex. Each school could require different “needs” for the athlete. For example at Alabama the student athlete primarily needs extra cash for donations to charities and churches and such. At Ohio State they need money for tattoos and at Florida they need extra money for a 1/4 bag from time to time. So you can see that this is complex and not easy to make it equitable and fair for all.

    roll tide :)

  2. southernpatriots says: May 18, 2011 10:01 PM

    At least some folks are thinking about this and now talking about it. This is very good. This may lead to some changes which would provide at least some stipend for the players to at least buy a burger and drink for themselves and a date or put some gas in their car. There may be abuses, but there are abuses now and most athletes do not even receive more than maybe $30 per month for laundry money.

    It is somewhat concerning that coaches making $3 – $4 mil per year often with incentive clauses, may object to athletes making ends meet. Maybe the $300,000 or so each year can come from the coaches salaries? Or from the lucrative tv contracts? There certainly is enough money around at least major college sports to allow for this amount which when considered to be their revenue stream is a mere pittance.

  3. WingT says: May 18, 2011 10:18 PM

    Oh, I forgot to add that there are some schools out there like Auburn that have already found a way to compensate their players, so they don’t need extra money – they’re good

  4. overratedgators says: May 18, 2011 10:34 PM

    While I think the merits of paying student-athletes can be debated, and I’m not yet convinced either way, this would clearly have to be a universal rule across the NCAA, not a conference-by-conference decision. Otherwise, I agree with Ben – it becomes a recruiting fairness issue.

    Hopefully, if the Big T(welv)en decides to move on with this, it will be in the form of adopting a proposal to forward to the NCAA, rather than trying to go it alone.

  5. southernpatriots says: May 18, 2011 10:55 PM

    overratedgators: You are correct, if it is just a conference by conference allowance or rule it will result in a bidding war. If NCAA wide, it may be able to administered more fairly.

  6. fatfreddystubbs says: May 18, 2011 11:21 PM

    You’re right when you say it’s too complex for one blog. The problem is that whenever there are real scandals involving serious money, you always hear the “we should be paying these guys)” argument.

    The problem is, one really has nothing to do with the other. The idea that giving a kid a monthly stipend that allows him just enough money to go out once or twice a week and buy a pizza and a few pitchers of PBR is gonna make him say “no, that’s cool, I do’t need the free Hummer” (the vehicle, not the other thing) is absurd. It might eliminate a few “$50 handshakes”, but even that’s doubtful. and i say all this as someone who thinks college athletes SHOULD get a couple bucks a month. But let’s not make it seem like that’s a panacea for all the corruption.

  7. 78lion says: May 18, 2011 11:50 PM

    Conference is just trying to level the playing field with the one that has already been paying their players.

  8. polegojim says: May 19, 2011 12:26 AM

    Kudos to the Big 10 for thinking out loud. This forward thinking addresses the real issues at hand, instead of worrying about how to bust future athletes for getting a tatoo and paying with their own memorabilia.

    Somebody finally stepped back and is seeing the forest, instead of another tree to chop down. I love SOLUTION based thinking.

    Keeps things ‘above board’ as much as possible, which diminishes the need for SOOO many rules.

    As SoutherPatriots said, there will always be abuses…but most will abide and at least play fair.

  9. jshalk123 says: May 19, 2011 4:09 AM

    This idea is brought up over and over again and its a terrible idea that will never work because nobody ever looks at the big picture.

    Does college football rake in tons of cash? Yes. Do the players probably deserve some of that cash? sure. Is it possible? Nope.

    Why? Because you can’t just increase the funds you are giving to the football team, you have to do it for ALL your scholarship athletes. You can try and argue all you want that you can just pay that one program but then that pesky thing like title 9 pops up.

    Most of the other sports programs do not generate revenue and now you are talking about increasing their costs. What do you think is going to happen to those other programs? They are going to disappear. I don’t think that’s a positive.

    And if anyone thinks paying the players more money is going to solve any of the shady practices they are an idiot. They take money because its easy and they want new toys. There may be a few out there who took cash out of bare necessity but I would venture to guess a vast majority of the players who take cash under the table would still take cash under the table even if their scholarship provided more money.

  10. bsmb says: May 19, 2011 4:41 AM

    they need nothing more…i saw it with my own two eyes they all spend their money on liquor, drugs, and fake diamond earings…everything else is already payed for…not another cent

  11. buckeye4278 says: May 19, 2011 10:18 AM

    This is a sublect that needs to be talked about, but it is more complex than most realize. The SEC and BIG10, and now PAC10, along with Texas and Notre Dame have huge TV deals to subsidies their payments to football players. The other conferences could not match what they can pay. So, do you force the “haves” to pay into a fund so teams that are the “have nots” like Boise ST and TCU can pay the same out? I think that would go over like a lead balloon. And you have to consider the olympic/non-revenue generating sports. Those student athletes live under the same rules and restrictions, and thus have an argument for the same stipend.

  12. southernpatriots says: May 19, 2011 10:44 AM

    buckeye4278: You’re right this is complex. Your suggestion may be exactly what they will have to do, but somehow they may have to oversee the actual revenues for the athletic programs, and in some cases the particular university through accounting manipulations makes those figures different from reality.

    But you are quite correct, something must be done to fairly implement this, if it is done, and it would have to apply toward those athletes in “profitable sports” and those in “negative revenue sports.”

  13. edgy says: May 19, 2011 11:06 AM

    Bring up Title IX all you want but it doesn’t keep them from being able to pay their athletes, it just means that everyone gets a share. Hell, my idea, $50 per week for Div I-A football and Div I in other sports and $25 per week for I-AA football, would be affordable and would still allow you to pay all the scholarship athletes.

  14. jw731 says: May 19, 2011 11:18 AM

    College tuition is a hardship on millions of Americans, taking out loans that last for years, parents stressed about the payments etc. But yet these “student-athletes” are given a free ride, and now they need more money for living expenses?…It seems to me, that many great men and women sufficed on their scholarships, did what had to be done and went on to lead successful and productive lives, either in the realm of sports or whatever their chosen field…This is just the corrupt organization known as the NCAA, trying to justify they basically will recruit a illiterate criminal, if they are steller athletes, as to further line their pockets….

  15. polegojim says: May 19, 2011 11:39 AM

    @jw731 – you sound like a bitter sports hater – which I don’t think you are.

    I understand your point, but we disagree on the dynamics. Athletes are gifted and our current entertainment industry rewards them, just like movie stars.

    Nothing in life is totally ‘fair’, but these kids make schools/NCAA/Bowls… TONS of money, whereas a Psych student does not.

    Their should be some type of consideration for it.

    Many of these kids COULD NOT even remotely afford college if it wasn’t for their skill and talent. They’re not a bunch of entitled kids getting even MORE of a ride.

  16. jw731 says: May 19, 2011 12:06 PM

    As did many a “student-athlete” before them, for decades, why should it change now? What unleveled the playing field but the NCAA’s greed?

  17. edgy says: May 19, 2011 12:20 PM

    Be careful about those bets that you make.

  18. tomosbornesretirementcostjoepaatitle says: May 19, 2011 1:07 PM

    No no no no no.

    A player at PSU from out of state gets almost 30K tuition and board free each year. The average student does not get this advantage. So now, we want to give these guys more of an easy ride, get them more accustomed to the high glamour, professional wrestling lifestyle of the NFL.

    We have coddled and given every advantage and pass to these football players their entire lives. Why is it such a shock then that they are arrogant divas who expect to be worshiped by the masses.

    Stop letting football players dictate your lives. Focus on family, community, and academics.
    We are not the first civilization to be so enamored with entertainment that we let our society crumble around us.

  19. edgy says: May 19, 2011 1:12 PM

    tomosbornesretirementcostjoepaatitle says:


    You’re point being? Do you think that they build some of the buildings on campus that they have now, if it wasn’t for the fund raising efforts of JoePa? Do you believe that JoePa carries any weight with donors if he’s a LOSER?

  20. southernpatriots says: May 19, 2011 1:27 PM

    Case in point: During Skip Bertman’s tenure as LSU as AD, after his time as the best baseball coach in LSU history and one of the very best ever in the U.S., he was able to build state of art new practice facilities, remodel the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, and build and remodel numerous other facilities on the LSU campus.

    This was during the tenure of Nick Saban and Les Miles as coaches of the LSU football team in which they won many games and two national championships, attracting huge amounts of money to LSU during those years. Bertman took the extra funds and other funds raised as a result of the winning years and invested them in new construction and remodeling old construction.

  21. burntorangehorn says: May 19, 2011 1:50 PM

    Ben–I think the pay-the-players arguments are usually ill-informed, so I’m hardly in that camp, but the food issue is big. While I did in fact get a meal plan to eat in the university cafeteria, that fell far short of feeding me what I needed to be a student-athlete. The facilities had limited hours, limited menus, and sometimes limited portions. A lot of real athletes need 5000-10000+ calories per day, and many of us on my team needed a lot more. Eating three squares doesn’t come even close to meeting athletes’ nutritional needs.

  22. edgy says: May 19, 2011 2:06 PM

    Jeez — “Your” not “You’re” :)

    Just thought I’d not be a hypocrite and self-report my violation. :)

  23. southernpatriots says: May 19, 2011 2:19 PM

    burntorangehorn: Thank you for your posting and your honesty. We remember several athletes we knew well about 10 years ago at LSU and at Tulane telling us the same thing. They would have to eat at local restaurants on their own dollars to make up the shortage of calories served at the university meal plan.

    Meal plans over the past decades have lower calories more and more due to the concerns of the fattening of America or the “food police” but that he seriously affected top athletes that need so many more calories as burntorangehorn pointed out from his own experience.

  24. rhf42 says: May 19, 2011 3:00 PM

    Has anyone studied the value of an athletic scholarship? Obviously that varies by region and school, but I’d be interested in knowing its value.

    I think the dialog that I hear these days is a little offensive. The discussion in this forum has been better, but much of the dialog treats an athletic scholarship as if it has little or no value. An athletic scholarship is far, far better than any academic scholarship — a player not only has room and board, but also has an entire staff dedicated to making sure they can pass their classes. This for students, who in many cases would never have been admitted on the basis of their performance in school.

    I know at Texas Tech, where I went, athletes had a separate dining facility and got much better food than other students. Perhaps that explains all Tech’s national championships! :-)

    I’m not suggesting players should not get a stipend, but I am saying that everyone should be honest about the amount players are already being paid.

  25. cleoface says: May 19, 2011 8:28 PM

    Michigan supporters used to say “In Rod we trust” I guess with the whipping put on them in their first bowl game in several years, their faith has been stripped away.

    I would like to clarify the NCAA sanctions charging the Wolverines with practing too much. I believe Rodriguez’s team was mixed up with some intramural teams. It’s obvious to even the slowest of Michigan grads that the Wolverines should not be charged with practing too much.

    Impersonating a D1 football program? Yes!!!!!!!!!

  26. tomosbornesretirementcostjoepaatitle says: May 20, 2011 4:42 PM

    rhf42 says:

    well stated.

  27. edgy says: May 20, 2011 11:27 PM

    The problem with that comparison is that you’re trying to compare apples to oranges. Ok, they get all that stuff paid for but they have nothing for themselves after that. You, as a regular student, can go get a job or two or three and get some folding money but that’s not the case for them. As I’ve said before, I’d be willing to let them “earn” $10 per hour (but no more than $200 per week) for “working” for the boosters. At some schools, the boosters are going to pay them, anyway and frankly, this will actually save them money. :)

  28. John Taylor says: May 21, 2011 12:10 AM

    OK, first of all, this — “At some schools, the boosters are going to pay them, anyway and frankly, this will actually save them money.” — was extremely funny and even made my better half laugh.

    Secondly, and I’m throwing this out there in the hopes that some serious discussion can evolve from it from everyone, what of the 104 Div. 1-A athletic departments — out of 120 — operating in the red? Obviously, accounting “practices” could account for that 2009 figure, but most athletic programs are NOT awash in money even as conference football media rights are breaking records left and right. The costs for non-revenue sports are rising — think gas prices in relation to, for example, USF’s men’s soccer team traveling to Syracuse and the money involved for transportation alone– and not every school would be willing to go Cal on them. And then there’s Title IX, which will absolutely be a part of any discussion when it comes to “bridging the financial gap” as it pertains to scholarships… unless the Div. 1-A behemoths decide to rid themselves of the NCAA completely and strike out on their own.

    And, honestly, I think that’s the end game Delany and his ilk are looking toward. Delany’s already very publicly stated that, basically, “enough’s enough” when it comes to further access for non-BcS schools in the college football hierarchy. This public move by Delany to broach “paying” football players has taken on the look, smell and feel of eventual secession.

    And I’ve yet to figure out if that would be a good or bad thing.

  29. southernpatriots says: May 21, 2011 8:34 AM

    JT: Great analysis of the situation. Thank you. It seems as we get older we like changes less and less but some changes have been desired for a long time (e.g. Div. 1-A championship playoffs). The NCAA for the big players is something we are ambivalent about since we do see some benefits of the NCAA and their abuses can be readily seen.

    We don’t know we could ever figure it out but your discussions help us frame the thoughts and maybe over the next weeks, months, and years we will have a better idea.

    We hope we will continue to be able to post over the summer but my daughter is trying to move to an area less vulnerable to the flood plain of the Morganza spillway and we all want to get family a little closer together. And in the midst of it all, great health concerns for family members. My spare time may no longer be spare.

  30. polegojim says: May 21, 2011 10:29 AM

    @cleoface – snore…

    @ JT – my points exactly. This is a good thing. In it’s current state, the NCAA is a money pit with very LITTLE return on investment for teams and conferences. However, the NCAA does give sports writers LOTS to talk about!

    Challenge them to provide real, cost effective value, or go independent.

    I hear Tea Parties aren’t all bad.
    Down with the Bloody Big Head.

    @southernpats – I hear you, but struggle with that. The NCAA’s ‘policing’ methods are self-serving, and appear to smoke screen the real issues of waste and poor value. What I see today for the most part is management for the sake of management.

    The NCAA should exist ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ (conferences, teams, players, alum, fans). Currently, it’s gone backwards – with all serving the NCAA.

    The Big 10 is a money maker and can afford to experiment a bit and lead the way.

  31. southernpatriots says: May 21, 2011 10:49 AM

    polegojim: You are quite astute with your posting. We agree at least in principal. We do not know what in practice would regulate anything if the NCAA was not there. The abuses oftentimes have been great even with the NCAA and without them it could be horrible.

    We agree completely with your statement “of the people, by the people, for the people.” We think most things in this great nation should be that way, but even our government is no longer that way. Politicians often vote for things we do not support, become Washingtonized, and only visit us when they are campaigning for money or reelection. The exceptions to that are few.

    We have also made that statement to some pastors we know…that they are there to serve the people, not the other way around. That is what we all have tried to do as a family for many years, serve the children, serve the people. We would hope the Big 10 or SEC or some power house conference like that would do something to get this shaken up and changed.

    Tea Parties are all bad. I had Luzianne Tea parties when I was much younger and they were good, though I did also have Community Coffee parties (well I am from south Louisiana! ha.) and some of my children have been to Tea Parties as adults and they speak very highly of them. Maybe that is a way to restore the “”of the people, by the people, for the people.”

    Well, now back to my box collecting and strengthening for my daughter (she is planning on moving soon).

  32. edgy says: May 21, 2011 12:38 PM

    John, I’ll get back to you about other stuff but unless the schools are willing to give up Federal money, they’re not going to get out of Title IX. As I said in another post, the NCAA takes in over $700 million per year in royalty payments. Even if it costs a school a million per year to give out the extra money, the NCAA would still have plenty of money, just from that, to cover the overage for every school so that no one is at a disadvantage.

  33. edgy says: May 21, 2011 7:23 PM

    I’m proposing that they allow the boosters to contribute to a general pool and then any difference is made up from royalty payments. All schools would be given an even distribution per student athlete on scholarship. I figure, that AT WORST, if you give every scholarship athlete in Div-I (I-A or I-AA), $50 per week and if every school had 550 athletes on scholarship, that would be about $1.43 million per year for them, if they go to school for a full 52 weeks. Not all schools have that many and some schools that may only have one sport in Division I, could drop down a division in order to avoid paying anyone and not having to worry about Title IX.

  34. southernpatriots says: May 21, 2011 8:56 PM

    edgy: Don’t know who would give you negative on that posting. Good thought and suggestions. Some Div. I schools presently give their athletes that do not have ready access to laundry service, a stipend each week or month for laundry. Most we have heard is about $30 to $40.

    None give them any pocket money, except boosters who break the NCAA regs.

  35. polegojim says: May 22, 2011 11:53 AM

    @southpats –
    Tea Party’s can be fun, no really…
    See Southern Living, May, pages 110-113!

    I bet the original one in Boston was a hoot too.

    @edgy – they need to hire us

  36. southernpatriots says: May 22, 2011 12:04 PM

    polegojim: The tea parties I used to attend when much younger seemed to be an excuse for ladies to sit around and gossip. The tea was pretty good but the conversation wasn’t. The coffee “parties” were close friends and neighbors and I miss them, just like I miss my old friends and neighbors who have passed.

    The Boston Tea Parties were subversive! ha. They must have been much intrigue and fun as well, and none there probably knew the full impact of what they were doing. Maybe the present day Tea Parties will have a similar impact…that would be quite fun also!

    Southern Living! Wow! I have a collection that goes back years! But stopped my subscription about a year ago when I found I wasn’t keeping up with the issues. I am going to check out the article on tea parties! Thank you for the heads up!

  37. edgy says: May 22, 2011 6:17 PM

    spats, I could say that the sky is blue or hand out $100 bills and the fake edgy(s) would give me one. Since I don’t give anyone up or down, I won’t dignify them by balancing it out.

  38. southernpatriots says: May 22, 2011 9:11 PM

    polegojim: I was able to see the Southern Living May article on tea parties. Cute! So cute! I was that cute when I was little…ha. I think my precious mother made my dress and it looked similar, I think.

    You have inspired me….I am going to have a tea party, with my mother’s “world famous Southern sweet tea” and friends. I know it won’t be the traditional hot tea but we like this tea better and I will be able to get more ladies over here if I offer my mother’s famous ice tea. So I am going to do it! It will give a break from the river cresting, flooding, moving, praying for my daughter to find a new teaching job out of the flood plain area of the Morganza, etc.

  39. polegojim says: May 23, 2011 1:26 AM

    Southerpats – sounds great, During our 17 years in TX, I sampled a few mighty fine sweet teas. Have one for me.

    We need positive diversion during stress, trials, and tribs. Keeping some norm during the storm strengthens the heart.

    One my favorite words is: Encourage – Literally to put ‘Heart’ in someone, ourselves or others.

    I’ve never heard of anybody suffering from having too much courage or heart.

    Enjoy the tea with the resulting encouragement.

  40. southernpatriots says: May 23, 2011 5:49 AM

    polegojim: You are so right. After Katrina my family and I who were very intimately involved in the rescue and relief effort noticed so many who had “lost heart.”

    I am seeing of the same thing after the devastating tornadoes that brought such damage and now in Joplin and shortly after that the huge flood of the Mississippi some of which is now coursing through central south Louisiana. “Loss of heart” can be seen and maybe our little tea party will help restore some heart to a few.

    My daughter needs a new teaching position in her new location (moving near family). She will be meeting with principals and administrators later this week and onward. We appreciate prayers for her and her family who rely on her.

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