Big Ten considers pay proposal

Updated: May 19, 2011, 1:32 PM ET
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- 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.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said league athletic directors and officials have seriously discussed whether they should use some of their growing TV revenue to pay athletes more.

"Forty years ago, you had a scholarship plus $15 a month laundry money," Delany said. "Today, you have the same scholarship, but not with the $15 laundry money.

"How do we get back more toward the collegiate model and a regulatory system that is based more on student-athlete welfare than it is on a level playing field, where everything is about a cost issue and whether or not everybody can afford to do everything everybody else can do?" Delany asked.

Delany stressed that the Big Ten was merely at the discussion stage, but he added the league is interested in talking to other conferences to see if they also favor such a plan. He acknowledged many schools and conferences across the country couldn't afford to cover those additional expenses, which could run about $300,000 a year just for football and men's basketball players alone.

But some Big Ten officials say if they can help out their athletes, then the concept of using the same rules for all teams should be abandoned. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the stakes are simply higher for schools like his than for those in the MAC or Sun Belt.

"The reality is, if there's cost of attendance and you can't afford it, don't do it," Smith said. "The teams you're trying to beat can't do it either. Don't do it because Ohio State's doing it. That's one of the things schools at that level get trapped into thinking."

Brian Bennett covers college football for ESPN.com.