NCAA expected to approve increased value of scholarships

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The proposal by some members of the collegiate athletics world to increase the value of a student-athlete’s scholarship (re: covering the full cost of attendance) has become a controversial topic for the past several months. But with the annual arrival of newer, more lucrative television deals to conferences — and, in some cases, individual institutions — it’s becoming harder for universities with revenue-producing college sports to fall back on the value that higher education provides to its student-athletes.

Simply put, and we’ve stated this many times, college football and basketball are run and operated as businesses, and athletes are stretched to their maximum availability day in and day out.

Meeting in Grapevine, Texas earlier this week, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick presented an increase in scholarship value that would vary, but cap off at $2,000. Swarbrick is part of a panel of major college AD’s who not only would like to see the NCAA approve the motion, but extend scholarships to multi-year grants.

Current athletic scholarships cover tuition, room and board, books and other university fees.

The NCAA’s Board of Directors are set to meet on Oct. 26 and 27 in Indianapolis, and are expected to approve the increased scholarship value proposal on a conference-based level, meaning it would not be mandated across all of Division 1.

“The philosophy that makes this make sense to us is that, really, because of the demands we place on student-athletes, their opportunity to generate any other revenue for themselves in a way that other students do is simply not there,” Swarbrick said. “And we ought to recognize that and make up for it.”

The move, if approved, still may not cover the “full cost of attendance” for every student at every school. USA Today research found that in the 2009-10 academic year, the average cost of attendance for a student-athlete exceeded the value of their scholarship by about $4,000.

But this idea is about compromise. There will never be a “pay for play” as long as the NCAA is tied to college athletics. Additionally, and as the motion outlined, not every conference is going to be able to afford to pay its players. It’s worth including again that only 22 Division 1-A athletic programs were self-sustaining last year, meaning they didn’t rely on any university or government subsidies

The logistical and financial hurdles of attempting to cover the full cost of attendance for athletes are numerous, but this is a case where if a conference feels they can do it, then they have that option.

Personally, I think it’s the right move. TV deals and other areas of revenue are becoming too common and athletes are asked to do too much to not get something in return.

Covering the full (or partial) cost of attendance won’t stop players from taking impermissible benefits or using the money for something other than laundry and a trip home. That happens now and it’s not going to change.

That doesn’t mean the evolution of the game can’t.