According to USA Today, the move to get athletes a bit more financial support through more valuable scholarships is becoming quite serious:
“A committee weighing a number of potential changes is expected to recommend that the value of individual scholarships be raised by as much as $2,000 in the top tier Division I, moving closer to covering the athletes’ full cost of attending school. Full grants currently cover only room, board, books and tuition…
Scholarship increases would vary by school, and (Jack) Swarbrick’s committee is proposing a cap: the lesser of an institution’s uncovered costs or $2,000. The move, if approved next month, wouldn’t be mandatory but subject to adoption by conference. Amounts for athletes on partial scholarships would be prorated.”
“Hurrah,” many in the national media will shout. “Finally, some of these millions will be going back to the student-athletes.” (Jason Whitlock, of course, will say it’s a scam and a pittance.)
But here’s the rub. The same people who will praise this decision are the very ones who’ve been screaming, crying and whining about conference expansion and realignment.
If only some conferences — SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12, if it survives — can afford to make these changes, they are going to have an even greater recruiting advantage over the have-nots of Division I. That could lead to several on-the-cusp programs petitioning for acceptance into one of the big money leagues.
Also, if the universities in those big leagues will be tossing out so much extra cash, where will those dollars come from? Sure they make millions upon millions from television revenue now, but every single dollar is allocated toward something. For every athlete getting 2,000 extra bones in the years to come, some other area of a school’s budget will take a $2,000 hit.
Unless the conferences sign even bigger television deals in order to create even bigger surpluses of cash. And how might a conference get earn a bigger TV deal? By expanding.
You can’t have it both ways.
If you’re an anti-expansion person you shouldn’t spend too much time praising a move to increase scholarship values when that very move will help fuel further expansion and realignment. And if you’re someone who’s very much in favor of getting these student-athletes some extra cash, you can’t decry the method by which conferences make the cash they’ll then turn around and give back to the athletes.
It’ll be interesting to see the fall-out from this one.
(Sidenote — It also appears that the NCAA will increase eligibility requirements for freshman athletes, raising the GPA in core course from 2.0 to 2.5. Coaches will scream.
For those who continue to say that academics have nothing to do with expansion because sports is bigger than academics, pay close attention. Once again, presidents and athletic directors are putting academics first… and these are the same people voting on which schools to invite into their conferences.)