CFN Thoughts - The Extra Stipend Debate
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
Posted May 22, 2011

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany thinks that major college athletes should get paid an extra stipend, but it's not okay for Terrelle Pryor to sell/exchange his own personal property … got it. Can players really start to receive part of the billions being generating? Is it fair? Is it possible? The CFNers pipe in with their thoughts on the intriguing issue.

Should Players Get More?

The Stipend Issue

The Big Ten bigwigs made news late last week by throwing open the idea that players should get a larger stipend, piggybacking on the concept put forward by commissioners from other conferences that the athletes should earn a few thousand dollars beyond what they get on scholarship. So is this a good idea or a slippery slope of a problem?

By Pete Fiutak

Of course athletes who play revenue producing sports should be fairly compensated beyond a scholarship and a token stipend for the all the billions of dollars in revenue they're generating.

And Texas and Notre Dame are about to join the Big Ten.

There are several problems with the idea of the colleges and conferences paying football and basketball players beyond what the compensation they're already receiving, ranging from the practical to the philosophical, and all Delany and other commissioners are doing is paying lip service to the issue because they know this can't happen.

First of all, this is a dead issue because of Title IX, which means if Joe Heisman is going to get a larger stipend, then Three-Putt Suzy and Joe Goalie from the non-revenue producing sports must also get some extra dough. Good luck finding the necessary funds for that at most schools. The bigger and better argument should be about the worthlessness of wasting money on activities that no one gives a flying fig about – there's a reason they're non-revenue sports – with the idea being to finally acknowledge that America's colleges and universities really don't need minor sports. Millions could be saved by just keeping the sports that generate revenue, along with enough women's sports to satisfy the Title IX law.

But I digress.

Mostly, the real reason why this will never, ever, ever happen is because of the world's current economic climate. You have to give it to Delany and his cohorts; they know how to work the PR game.

Schools are slashing and cutting worthwhile academic programs left and right, the cost of tuition has gotten out of control for most middle class families, and some federal lawmakers are trying eliminate key student aid plans, making it that much harder for the average working class stiff to send his kid to a good school. The second there's any traction to the idea of giving college athletes more money, the yelping and howling from the elbow-patched tweed jacket types will be deafening.

Let's say a plan is put forward to start giving athletes a few thousand dollars a year. Immediately, the talk show circuit will be flooded with esteemed professors and administrators arguing about how the English department is being eliminated or how the labs don't have enough test tubes – and they'll be in the right.

Forgetting that revenue generated by the athletic departments from all the TV deals, ticket sales, and merchandising would feed the beast, the complaint will be that the extra money, considering the budget crisis at most schools, could be better used elsewhere. There would be a backlash, and Delany and company would be able to throw up their hands in mock indignation and say, "Well, we tried."

Bravo, Mr. Nugent. Bravo.

The other issue is that a few thousand bucks wouldn't solve the fairness issue. No, the second string punter for Eastern Michigan shouldn't get paid the same as Andrew Luck, for no other basic reason than because Luck generates more revenue. Take Luck off of Stanford and the football program and the Pac-10 don't get the dough from the 2011 Orange Bowl appearance. How much was Cam Newton worth to Auburn last year?

Bad example.

Worst of all, paying major college athletes from revenue producing sports a few thousand dollars would only make the hypocrisy even more glaring, and Delany might have just unwittingly made my case for me.

So it would be okay to get $3,000 from the Big Ten, but it wouldn't be kosher to sell your gold pants, take a $100 handshake, or get a free car from a local dealer? If the powers-that-be are acknowledging the inequity of the revenue distribution and are admitting that the system isn't fair, then why the limit on the money a player can get? Why doesn't it matter who controls the stream? If a player is allowed to get paid, then a player is allowed to get paid. Period.

I apologize for being a broken record, but I'm going to keep arguing for the simplest of solutions until it finally happens: LET THE PLAYERS BE ABLE TO TAKE WHATEVER ANYONE WANTS TO GIVE THEM.

Let the players have agents. Let the players do endorsement deals. Let the players take money from boosters. Whether it comes in a duffel bag or in a check from the Big Ten offices in Park Ridge, Illinois, money is money is money. If commissioners are admitting that players should be getting a bigger piece of the pie, then they need to acknowledge that it really is okay for players to receive extra benefits because that's exactly what this extra stipend would be.

Commissioners, don't take more money out of the university system. Let the market dictate which players should get what compensation – because it's already happening – and admit, finally, that college athletics would be far, far better, and far, far cleaner, if players were treated like professionals, because that's really what they are at the FBS level.
Delany just said so.

By Richard Cirminiello

If schools are simply looking to increase the stipend for student-athletes, that sounds benign enough. If however, this is a first step toward sharing the wealth and paying for play, it'll wind up being a huge mistake that forever changes the landscape of the game and widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.

First off, student-athletes are not a part of the oppressed class, so stop the caterwauling. It's gotten so tiresome having to listen to the masses whining about all the money the schools are making and how the kids can hardly afford a movie ticket. Enough already. The athletes are on scholarship, a six-digit reward that comes with countless benefits and is completely voluntary. For every Cam Newton, by the way, there are 100 anonymous athletes, who are gaining far more from their participation than the university or the game ever will. Ask the Stanford journeyman if he feels as if he's gotten a raw deal. Also, keep in mind that any increase in stipends will have to be across the board. That means that the Heisman-contending quarterback gets as much as the alternate on the wrestling team. Who pays for that? And doesn't it create more of a class difference between the behemoths and the smaller school already facing a budgetary crisis.

Like most problems, there's a simple solution. And like most simple solutions, some bureaucrat will shake his head in disapproval. Just allow athletes to earn money, much the way the rest of the student-body can. That means, if you can hold a job in the offseason, more power to you. If that employment involves signing autographs or providing lessons in their chosen sport, so be it. Stipends won't eradicate the seedy element of amateur athletics for much the same reason that communism never works; when everyone makes the same amount of benefits, regardless of skill level, resentment tends to surface and new sources of income are sought.

By the time an athlete graduates, he probably realizes a total benefit package in the neighborhood of a quarter-million dollars, more if he establishes a place of prominence in the local community. Not exactly the indentured servitude that many will have you believe these days. A small cost-of-living raise is fine as long as the rest of the student body doesn't have to pick up the tab, but anything more than that would be ill-advised. Anyway, learning to tighten the buckle and live within your means might be the best lesson he learns in college. It has a way of coming in handy when his draft grade winds up being overly optimistic or when the economy tanks.

By Matt Zemek

Leadership is defined and identified in many ways, but one quality at the heart of all good leaders is foresight, which must become an essential ingredient in the ongoing debate about compensating big-ticket college athletes.

The concept shouldn't be hard to understand: Unless the rapture really does arrive, human beings will walk the earth for billions more years. Quick money or power grabs do not a well-lived life make; leaders better not just present-day society, but the society that will exist in 50, 100, 500, or 1,000 years. This is why light-rail projects are needed (albeit with competent governmental administration and tight budgeting). We can't expect to drive gasoline-powered cars in 500 years. We should know that we're going to need something more, something better, something more efficient, something which meets more of the needs of a wider pool of citizens.

So it also is with paying college athletes in the revenue-generating sports, football and basketball. Again, this should not be a hard concept to understand.

For just how many decades – especially since CBS upped the ante with its major 1991 deal to broadcast the whole NCAA Tournament – was college athletics, writ large, going to insult the generators of its revenues? For how many decades would big-time college sports rake in billions of dollars in TV money and turn the premium New Year's Day bowl games into obscene cash grabs while its athletes not only didn't get salaries, but couldn't make money off sales of sports video games or team jerseys (and the like)? It's long past time for reforms to happen. In the years 2111 and 2211 and 2611, we should hope that college athletes – in future centuries, perhaps beyond the scope of just football and hoops – will be fairly compensated for the money they bring to their schools and conferences. Leadership demands an elastic, sensible structure within which this can happen.

Let's lawyer up. Let's revise – if not dismantle – Title IX, which served its purpose in 1972 but has now outgrown its usefulness, at least in its present configuration. Let's make the requisite adjustments in the athletic-industrial complex. Let's allow athletes to get a cut from video game and jersey sales. Let's create a non-NCAA entity in which the BCS conference football schools can stage a true national championship competition. Let's usher in the era of the superconferences – why postpone the seemingly inevitable? Plan now for what is undeniably going to come at a later stage and dispense with the pretense.

Let's show some foresight, jump through the 5,482,734,881 legal hoops that exist, hold some NCAA Basketball Selection Committee-style meetings in Indianapolis boardrooms over many months, and get these reforms done.

Let's show leadership instead of keeping our heads in the sand.

Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

There has been a lot of discussion during the last few years over possible changes to the college football landscape on the field, on the roster and on the business side. While these discussions may seem independent of each other, they are not. They are all related.

Full-cost scholarships, conference realignment, a non-AQ playoff, and yes, even oversigning legislation all are indicators that we are headed to the age of the super-conference - and it's coming sooner rather than later.

If the B1G institutes full-cost scholarships, the other five BCS conferences will follow suit almost instantaneously. It isn't about fairness or giving athletes the proper compensation for their work (because that's what it is). It's about separation.

Do you think three-star John Q. Quarterback will go compete for his position at a non-AQ school when he could do the same at big-time State U. and receive $3,000 per semester? Of course not.

Whether it's under the NCAA umbrella or not, the age of the 16-team super-conference is coming, and the possibility of offering full-cost scholarships is just another indication. What full-cost scholarships will do is separate the big-time football programs from the non-revenue generating programs. Once that happens, it will be much easier to cherry pick programs once we get to the next round of expansion - which is on its way in a hurry.