The Big Ten’s money play

  • 05/19/2011 4:17 pm in


Big Ten officials discussed a proposal that would pay athletes to help cover living expenses on top of their scholarships during the league’s spring meetings this week.

The idea, which is backed by current NCAA president Mark Emmert and was favored by late NCAA president Myles Brand, is to bridge the gap between what athletic scholarships pay and other expenses like transportation and clothing. That difference has been estimated at between $2,000 to $5,000 per player.

Two sides to this:

1)  It’s a feather in the cap for the “kids-deserve-to-get-paid” crowd, a seemingly growing group of individuals who believe as universities and the NCAA stack millions off their student-athletes, there should exist a kickback. In this sense, thumbs up for the Big Ten, which would use the Big Ten Network’s revenue to fund this idea.

2) With word of the Big Ten’s idea, other big-time decision makers spanning several conferences agreed that “hey, something has to give here, we should definitely explore this, too.” Which, again: cool.

But what if one conference offers athletes at the top end of that $2,000 – $5,000 range — or even higher — and the other is down at the $2,000 or lower range? What if some conferences just can’t hack it and aren’t able to pay at all because they don’t have a TV network? Might that steer an athlete to the conferences handing out more cash? Could it set up a pro league scenario, where certain schools are drawing more top-tier kids like free agency? Where is the line drawn? Is a universal pay grade even feasible from conference to conference?

And of course, this isn’t going to stop boosters and street runners and such from giving kids under-the-table handouts to come to a certain school. Still so hard to police. The NCAA’s imperfect system stays imperfect.

But I suppose it’s a start.

Filed to:

  •  Wait, hasn’t Kentucky been doing this for years?

  • JerryCT

    Lets eliminate all college athletic scholarships , sell the facilities to minor league investors and be done with it and teams can pay whatever they want ……………………… this way we acknowledge the greed involved and put it where it belongs …………. the private sector.

  • Yeah I was surprised to see BKnight leave this year. He’s going to be late first round, and that’s really a pay-cut from what he was making this year at UK. 

  • RobD

     I can’t see how this would make a bit of difference. The kids *already get paid*–they get full-ride college scholarships–which, depending on where you go to school, can be a six-figure benefit. For instance, if you go to Duke, it’s $55K per year. 

    Paying them some measly sum on top won’t stop the kids from selling their gear (OSU) or taking money from boosters ([insert favorite cheater here]). 

    All this does is further infect the system with more money, and give the kids who don’t go on to be pros an even more distorted view of their futures, and more money to squander on stuff they shouldn’t. Show me a freshman handed a couple thousand dollars and I’ll show you a freshman hosting a kegger. Show me 22 incoming freshmen football players getting extra money (do you know how far a hundred dollars goes on a college campus? in a college liquor store?), and I’ll show you a campus drunk tank teeming with massive athletes. You want to control it by having the school do the buying, well, okay… but it’s not like the kids don’t already get stipends for travel that, if they manage decently, can leave them with a few extra bucks at the end of a trip. And it’s not like they don’t already get tons of free gear.

    Provided egalitarian goals of fair play and at least a semblance of a level playing field remain viable, this is just one of those intractable problems without a good solution. 

  • RobD

    One thing I forgot is this:

    You want to make a meaningful move for these kids? Take the extra money you’re giving them, and put it into a trust fund that doesn’t go into effect until a few years after they graduate–and ONLY if they graduate. Make them take personal finance as a prerequisite to graduation. In other words, help make them responsible adults before giving them money.  

  • unclekerfuffle

     The only way I could support this–like it really matters to the NCAA what I think–is to set a dollar number for incidental expenses that is the same for all schools and all athletes (including walk ons) regardless of sport, location, conference or revenues.

  • Only $5000 per year? This would result in a big pay cut for Ohio State, USC and Alabama Players- it won’t pass.

  • Anonymous

     It’s fine if you want to say that the scholarship counts as getting paid.  I like the idea of amateur athletics as well.  But if you’re going to take a hard line on that, to me, you have to lift restrictions on the types of work athletes can do while in college and still retain their eligibility.  

  • Matt21

    This will be a slippery slope in which few will be happy about.   

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

     Yeah, Calipayoff and the rest of the scum over at pUKe just got a chuckle at that 2-5K bit!

  • Dtfree

    Its called PELL GRANTS! 5,500.00 per year, for the “poor athletes” that qualify. The others like Doc Rivers’ son would need neither. How many of scholarship players folks can certainly keep them in spending money, most and Pell Grants would cover the others. 

  • INUnivHoosier

     What living expenses? I guess I’m confused…

    Doesn’t a full ride scholarship encompass a meal plan, housing, and school? They get a bunch of free athletic apparel in addition to the clothes they came to school with (which basically lasted me 4 years.)

    If it’s strictly a scholarship covering tuition, I can understand it.

    Here is a novel idea – return all of this extra money that is burning a hole in their pockets to the fans. Lower ticket prices, cut parking costs, whatever may make a difference for the fans. This money is coming from fans, both directly and indirectly. I suppose they could also give it to the university for academics, invest it in sports that don’t have large budgets… My point is, why does it always turn to spending the money instead of reinvesting it or using it to reduce the necessary inputs?

    Maybe I’m just too idealistic.

  • Anonymous

     If they end up doing this which I am against then they better at least make it the same for every athlete at every school and it needs to come from the NCAA’s slush fund.  Right now I think this is a ploy by the Big Ten to see what they can get away with and if they do then they’ll have the upper hand in recruiting for a minute until the other big conferences catch up.  Overall, paying players sets a very bad precedent in my book. 

  • Anonymous

    RobD, I former would have agreed on some of these points.  However, things changed with the one-and-done rule.  Kids aren’t allowed to go pro out of high school and are forced into the college system.  

    I believe there are still restrictions on what players get jobs, I don’t think they’re even allowed to work part-time in the revenue-generating sports.  Also, they can’t accept some forms of alternative scholarships to help with the expenses beyond an athletic scholarship.

    If you’re on NCAA scholarship, you’re basically cut out of alternative ways to make money, which can be a real issue for some people.  Not all of these kids have intact homes. 

    The most extreme case is Thomas Robinson at Kansas, who lost his mother and grandparents within a 3 month period.  He now has a 9-year sister with no relatives to rely on. 

  • Plane1972

    “Slippery slope” was the exact term I was thinking as well, Matt21. This will only drive up the cost of education for all other students when schools/conferences without big network deals have to find ways to keep up with the BCS schools. What a shame we are going down this path.