Maryland to buy all of its athletes iPads with Student Assistance Fund money

For the regular students on campuses who think athletes get preferential treatment, Maryland's latest gesture for its athletes might not be too popular.

Maryland is going to give iPads to all 500 of its athletes, according to the Baltimore Sun. The cost of that is an estimated $300,000, and the Sun and the excellent Bylaw Blog says the money will come out of the Student Assistance Fund (SAF), which is supposed to be "used to assist student-athletes in meeting financial needs that arise in conjunction with participation in intercollegiate athletics, enrollment in an academic curriculum or that recognize academic achievement." The Bylaw Blog estimated Maryland got about $325,000 to $350,000 from the fund, so the school is blowing most of that money on the fancy tablets. The preference of the SAF is to give assistance to athletes "who display a financial need for assistance," and it's hard to say giving athletes an iPad falls under that.

As John Infante of the Bylaw Blog points out, it's legal, just not the intended purpose of the fund (and Maryland can't use general budget money to buy iPads for athletes). And the recruiting draw is pretty clear.

Maryland told the Baltimore Sun that the iPads will help the athletes academically:

"Often times the [NCAA] fund is used for educational purposes, as it was in this case,” Maryland said in a prepared statement, as reported by the Sun. “It cannot be applied to a general fund or in the case of the University of Maryland to reinstate athletic programs.”

The school said the devices will keep athletes “better connected academically when traveling to represent the university.”

Maybe helping athletes academically was the university's goal with the iPads. Maybe that will be the result, too.

Infante, on Twitter, thought there might be an interesting byproduct of giving athletes iPads.

It's an interesting case study. Infante wondered if this would open the door for other schools to use the SAF to buy athletes iPhones, claiming they're computers, and cell service needed to run those "computers."

Maybe this is an academic boost for athletes who are on the road a lot. Maybe it's just a nice perk for athletes who don't see a fraction of the money that schools bring in for ticket sales and television rights, even though they're the ones playing the games. Either way, it's something the NCAA might have to look into for the future, before other schools get creative too.

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