The issue over whether collegiate athletes should be paid to play is a one that has been fiercely contested and pitted the wealthier schools against those schools that would have trouble competing.
Consequently, it’s created a division between the haves and have-nots and that division came to a hilt today when SEC commissioner Mike Slive made a not-so-veiled comment that the money school won’t be afraid to break off from the NCAA to get what they want.
"When there are certain things that many of us would like to come into play, it's our hope that those things can all occur in the current system," Slive said today during an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. "Obviously, if things like that don't get accomplished, then it may be appropriate to talk about some alternative or division or something like that. But that's not our desire. That's not our goal and that's not something we're trying to get to."
While Slive noted that no serious conversations about breaking off were in the works, the fact that he went public with those thoughts was not a slip of the tongue; more like a shot across the bow.
Slive, who pushed for a rule that would allow athletes to receive a $2,000 stipend, was dismayed a new plan that was supposed to be presented this month was tabled and won’t be broached until October. Middle Tennessee State President Sidney McPhee, who heads the NCAA committee working on the stipend, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he wasn’t confident enough schools would vote for a proposal to pay student-athletes.
Still, if the wealthier schools — likely those from the Big Six conferences — walked away from the NCAA, it would immediately spell doom for those left behind. With major conferences come major teams, major fanbases and major money.
But the stipend, which was option in its original unveiling, is a catch-22 for many teams from the have-not conferences. Many of those schools can’t afford to give each athlete a $2,000 stipend, but can’t run the risk of falling behind schools that can. And that’s not just the major schools. Schools within the same conference or recruiting area will be battling for a lot of the same guys. Offering a player an extra $2,000 in his or her pocket is a great way to secure a commitment.
In a way, the stipend itself potentially draws the dividing line anyway.
"It's a disappointment that it's not taken care of yet," Slive said of the stipend policy. "We truly believe that we ought to do more for our student-athletes than just the room, board, books and tuition. We're hopeful that we can continue to make that work. ... I think it's fair to say it's an idea that's not going to go away."
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