And the money kept rolling out
in all directions
To the poor, to the weak,
to the destitute of all complexions
Now cynics claim a little
of the cash has gone astray
But that’s not the point my friends …
— From “Evita”
The money starts rolling out now, as colleges across the country begin cutting checks to pay student-athletes the so-called “cost of attendance” stipend approved by the NCAA.
It’s a good, perhaps even noble idea, to give college athletes an extra few thousand dollars a year intended for living expenses.
Back in high school LSU safety Rickey Jefferson, who watched his older brother Jordan deal with the demands of being a college athlete, wrote papers arguing that they should be paid.
“I think our voices are starting to be heard,” Jefferson said.
Of course, even the best intentions can have unintended consequences.
Other than the fact that schools must give cost-of-attendance stipends to all their student-athletes, not just the ones in sports that make money (basically football and men’s basketball), the entire process screams inequity.
Colleges, major colleges with the means to do so, will be able to pay their student-athletes. Of course, a lot of schools outside the FBS won’t be able to afford to pay anything. The divide between the haves and have-nots of college athletics has never been wider.
But there’s not even equity within the big-moneyed schools. The amount is based on a formula determined by each school’s financial aid office, numbers which vary widely from about $1,250 to just more than $6,000, according to a database compiled by CBSSports.com.
According to Athletic Director Joe Alleva, LSU will pay about $3,900 per year to its student-athletes living off campus and about $3,300 to those living on campus. The money will be distributed monthly.
Somehow, though, that figure is much less than what the top school in the Southeastern Conference will provide its players. Tennessee figured it should be allowed to shell out $5,666 per student-athlete. Does it really costs almost $2,000 more a year to get by in school in Knoxville, Tennessee, than it does in Baton Rouge?
There isn’t supposed to be any input from athletic departments for determining these figures within each school’s financial aid departments. But as Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby candidly told CBSSports.com, it would be naïve not to think there hasn’t been, ahem, “conversations.”
Alleva has been in favor of keeping the lid on this Pandora’s box closed. He is in agreement with being able to provide unlimited meals to student-athletes — former Connecticut basketball star Shabazz Napier brought attention to the hunger games college athletes surprisingly used to face — but said he feels colleges do plenty for their charges.
“I think we’ve made tremendous strides the past few years in terms of the benefits we give athletes,” Alleva said. “But sometimes people forget the value that athletes get in going to college.
“They get a free education, they can get counseling when they need it, they get trained by the best trainers in the country. There are a lot of athletes who without athletics (scholarships) would never go to college. We can give them more, but what they get is substantial.”
It’s a reasonable argument to say that college athletes get extraordinary benefits that regular students, like my son Nicholas now in his second year at LSU, do not.
But college athletes also face extraordinary demands. Nick has held down a part-time job at a local law firm all summer, a job he can continue into the fall. But fellow sophomore Malachi Dupre, an LSU wide receiver, doesn’t have the time.
“This is literally a full-time job,” Dupre said. “Six in the morning to 10 at night, I’ve been doing this for (three) weeks. I’m looking at all my other friends and they’re in California and on vacation, living a normal life. I’m fortunate to get a free education and the things we get for football, but I don’t feel like they can do enough for us.
“(The schools) are still making money. They still have a lot of money.”
In this whole new cost of attendance age, that’s one of the facts that isn’t open to debate.
The money keeps rolling in.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.