More Compensation for Student-Athletes?


Something controversial is stirring in college football and it’s being incited by the Big 10. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany wants to change the way scholarships are handed out. He wants to provide scholarships that cover “actual cost of attendance” including expenses such as transportation and clothing. This concept has surfaced before and was supported by late NCAA President Myles Brand and is also being supported by SEC commissioner Mike Silve. This topic spurs a long-time debate about whether or not college athletes should be compensated beyond the standard scholarship. I’ve had this debate many times with my friends and I am not in favor of adding compensation beyond the typical scholarship structure that is currently in place. It is a tough one though because these schools generate so much income from football game revenues it can be sickening to think of what a small percentage actually goes to the athletes. The problem for me is that this is dangerously close to making college football, a sport I love, into a semi-pro league. I love the competition and great competition comes from having a substantial amount of teams in the mix to stir things up. For the stars of college football, this stage is simply a stepping stone for their further success, i.e. lots of money. For those who will not make the next level a college-level education is the consolation prize and that’s not too shabby.

First of all, this isn’t talk of handing out player salaries but it’s getting pretty close, to figure out a dollar amount for “actual cost of attendance” would seem to be very difficult to regulate. So the “actual cost of attendance” scholarship for the football program may be worth a lot more than the “actual cost of attendance” for a volleyball player. Delany’s argument for the additional scholarship money is that of student-athlete welfare saying;

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?

From (share this quote)

That’s easy to say when you’re on the top, when you have the money to support this type of system, but this set-up could completely eliminate smaller conferences. I have a hard time believing Delany’s concern is entirely for the student-athlete – this proposal would create a financial wind-fall for those schools who can afford it because all that revenue will be focused on a much smaller pool of teams. Sure, some student-athletes would benefit as well, but what about the players who play for smaller conferences and have the spotlight on them when their team excels? The student-athlete’s well-being puts an extremely convenient “face” to the issue, not many people will argue that these athletes don’t deserve it. The problem is that this is not the only issue at play here. We all know that extras are already handed out illegally and that puts a bias on the top-athlete’s decisions, this newly proposed system will simply ensure that top recruits go to the wealthiest conferences. This practice is all about money; there is a lot of money in college football and this is a rich-get-richer situation. When big corporations make deals to weed out the little guys they do it for their own benefit and rarely do the employees reap much long-term benefit – why would this be any different? There are other points to consider as well; the current system fosters growth and gives the players who may take a little more time to develop, more of a stage for further advancement.

There is a lot support out there for this type of system and there will be a lot of pushback as well. Nothing has happened yet and it probably won’t for awhile but the talk has started again. It is clear to see that the current playing field is not even when comparing a conference such as the WAC and the SEC so I hope the move to an “actual cost of attendance” system does not happen and make the gap that much wider. It seems to me it will destroy some of the competition within college football, an aspect of the game that makes it so great.

Join in on the discussion and let everyone know how you feel about the topic – comments encouraged!