C-USA boss: 'Something has to give'

Updated: May 24, 2011, 6:06 PM ET
By Joe Schad | ESPN

One day after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said his conference members had discussed the concept of paying student-athletes more than the scholarship money awarded now, several other power brokers in college football weighed in on the topic.

Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said "something has to give on this issue."

Unless the student-athletes in the revenue-producing sports get more of the pie, the model will eventually break down. It seems it is only a matter of time.

-- Britton Banowsky, Conference USA commissioner

"Universities justify spending tens of millions of dollars on coaches' compensation, with a seemingly insatiable appetite for more growth. At the same time, a small fraction of that amount is spent on all scholarships for all student-athletes," Banowsky said. "Unless the student-athletes in the revenue-producing sports get more of the pie, the model will eventually break down. It seems it is only a matter of time."

SEC commissioner Mike Slive said the issue is one that needs to be revisited.

"I have long thought that we should revisit the current limitations on athletic scholarships by expanding to the full cost of attendance," he said. "This is a student-welfare issue that deserves full consideration at both the conference and national level. I look forward to that discussion."

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, ACC commissioner John Swofford and Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said the concept should be further explored. And spokesmen for NCAA president Mark Emmert and SEC commissioner Mike Slive said they are also in favor of a review that could lead to athletes receiving a "full cost of attendance."

Said Beebe: "This is a topic that BCS commissioners discussed at recent meetings and one that we agreed to review with our respective member institutions at spring conference meetings, which I intend to do at the upcoming annual Big 12 meetings."

Said Swofford: "I think it's something that deserves our full consideration and discussion. It would be consistent with a number of other scholarships that are on our campuses across the country."

Said Scott: "I fully support studying the impact of increasing the grant in aid package for student-athletes. We have not had any discussion on earmarking funds for this purpose."

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said the issue merits study. But he added, "The first question to answer is -- is this the right thing to do? That is a worthwhile debate. As an association the NCAA strives to differentiate intercollegiate athletics from professional sports and it is important that we continue to maintain the collegiate model."

A spokesman for Emmert said Thursday that Emmert "continues to be interested in discussing options about how to meet student-athletes' needs without paying them salaries."

Emmert has said that closing the gap between monetary awards to merit scholars and student-athletes is worth exploring. On the table could be $2,000 to $5,000 per year per athlete for expenses such as transportation and clothing.

The NCAA spokesman cautioned that while colleges and universities decide on financial-aid levels for student-athletes, for any one conference to implement the "full cost of attendance" plan would require legislative approval from the full NCAA Division I membership.

Swofford added that there are both financial and legal considerations.

"Could it be limited to only revenue-producing sports?" Swofford said. "I'm not sure we would want to do it. And from a legal standpoint, how does it mesh with Title IX? I think we're a ways away from getting there. But it's a student-athlete welfare issue. It's a way to enhance the student-athlete experience and put a dent in some of the financial strains that some athletes have."

Some conferences may be more able to provide the extra funds than others. A spokesman for Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Thursday that he did not believe its conference members had discussed the possibility of getting athletes more money.

Thompson noted some other concerns Friday.

"Whether or not it is fiscally feasible might differ from institution to institution," Thompson said. "Air Force could not legally do it and the same might be true of others. Paying athletes raises drastic tax questions, not to mention the whole amateurism concepts under which we currently operate."

Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN.

Joe Schad

College Football

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