With a playoff in place, it’s time to revisit player stipends

Dr. Saturday

After years of complaining, lawsuits and threats of congressional intervention, college football has finally done away with the BCS and implemented a four-team playoff system. And with this new system comes a potential windfall as venues try to outbid each other for the rights to host the coveted semifinal and final games and television networks fight to see who gets to broadcast them. The forecast calls for college football to make as much as a half-billion per year just from the television rights. While all of this is great for college football, it should — should — be great for the student athlete.

Yes folks, it's time to revisit player stipends.

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For the past couple years, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has taken every opportunity to advocate stipends for the players who have made college football the cash calf it's been and the cash cow it's about to become. During the SEC's spring meeting earlier this month, Spurrier boldly stated that football players and other athletes in revenue producing sports, such as basketball, should be given "approximately $3,500 to $4,000" a year to cover college expenses in addition to their scholarship money. And when he says college expenses, he's not just talking about rent and food, he's talking about that new pair of kicks at Champs Sports (I prefer Zappos.com) and taking that hot girl from biology class out on a proper date to the Olive Garden.

"We as coaches believe they're entitled to a little more than room, books, board and tuition," Spurrier said. "Again, we as coaches would be willing to pay it if they were to approve it to where our guys could get approximately get three-, four-thousand bucks a year. It wouldn't be that much, but enough to allow them to live like normal student-athletes.

"We think they need more and deserve more. It's as simple as that."

This is a huge jump from the $300 Spurrier asked for during the 2011 SEC spring meetings. At that point, he was testing the waters and meeting a lot of resistance. But with the new monetary moves being made in college football, it didn't seem out of the question for Spurrier to ask for several thousand — not hundred — dollars for his players.

Even Texas coach Mack Brown has jumped on the stipend bandwagon. He tweeted shortly after the playoff was approved Tuesday: "In my opinion, with the amount of money the playoff will generate, I hope we can revisit the student-athlete stipend."

Student-athlete is the key word here because despite Spurrier's soapboxing (yeah, I just made up a word), the NCAA can't just pay football and basketball players and leave everyone else out — Title IX will not stand for that. Besides there's more than enough to go around even if some schools don't think they have the funds.

Last year, the NCAA approved legislation that would allow schools to offer a $2,000 stipend to players in need in addition to their scholarship in what was called full-cost attendance. However, 100 schools asked to override the vote and the measure has been tabled ever since. The problem was this: Many schools didn't believe they could afford the stipend and would consequently suffer from a recruiting standpoint. That was when the television rights to broadcast the four BCS games were worth $155 million. Now, many project the right to broadcast the two semifinal games and the final could be worth $400-$500 million. So we're talking $245-$345 million more in the pot to go around. And that's just the television rights. Add a few more million for each game that wants to host one of these games.

Even if you increased the payouts per school, there would be a lot left over to provide student-athletes with sizable stipends for essentially creating this money bomb.

It's just one thing to think about while as the commissioners and the president determine what to do with all that extra cash.

"I think there's still a lot of work to be vetting out, and how the revenue is going to be distributed is the first step in that," Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told the Associated Press. "We haven't gotten that far along in the process but I expect over the course of the next academic year we will do that in meetings."

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