Nobody cares about Lonnie White. Nobody cares that as a former USC wide receiver from 1982 to 1986, White pocketed roughly $14,000 in extra benefits. Nobody cares that he sold his season ticket allotment. Nobody cares that, in doing so, he violated NCAA rules.
We’re numb to this now. Unless Yahoo! Sports were to learn Pat Haden, Lane Kiffin and Matt Barkley were operating some drug cartel south of the border, most of us are going to shrug our shoulders and just trot along.
We have read about extra benefits for months now. We have read about impermissible contact with agents, sports marketers, boosters, alleged boosters and runners. It’s quite the list.
Thus, White’s revelation of his prior transgressions in The Daily last week didn’t exactly move the needle much when it comes to such issues.
“Rent was overdue and my household bills were delinquent,” White wrote. “I needed the money to live, so accepting the $14,000 in different forms of ‘benefits’ over my college years three decades ago was an act of survival.”
But glancing over this would be unfortunate.
In the aftermath of scandals this past year at USC, North Carolina, Auburn and Ohio State, the issue of providing college athletes with greater compensation has reared its head yet again.
Highlighting a national discussion, namely in recent months, has been whether student-athletes, primarily those who happen to play football, should be paid. How much? How often? When? And from whom?
It’s far-fetched from a number of perspectives, at least in regard to some sort of full-scale payroll handed down from athletic departments to players.
Despite such complications, it’s not a moot point. The idea of increasing the player stipend, in the hopes of preventing players such as White from having similar problems in regard to rent payments remains the most practical option available. It’s an idea, at least, that USC Athletic Director Pat Haden seemingly gave a full endorsement in the wake of White’s revelation.
“The NCAA formulas used to determine student-athlete stipends are not appropriate,” Haden said in a statement. “Having interviewed 15 different athletes and broken down their stipend against their bills, they are left with about $5 per day for food. I just do not think that is right.”
And as Haden points out, USC athletes, by virtue of living in Los Angeles in a Downtown urban sprawl, carry a heavier burden than most.
“The current formula does not take into account the different costs associated with going to USC and living in Los Angeles as opposed to Washington State and a small town like Pullman,” Haden said.
Typically, athletic scholarships cover tuition, which at USC is roughly $37,000 per year, but they do not, however, cover the cost of living, room and board, meals, etc., which is where stipends come in.
According to Haden, athletes living in non-university housing receive $1,100 monthly, which doesn’t necessarily equate to much once you factor in rent charges of nearly $900 per month.
Then again, would raising the stipend actually serve as a deterrent for players faced with predicaments similar to White’s from accepting extra benefits?
Would an extra $300 per month prohibit individuals, such as former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, from selling signed merchandise for thousands of dollars?
In all likelihood, no.
But it would, unquestionably, alleviate some of the pressures placed upon student-athletes, which still makes it an attractive option.
Granted, it would hardly eliminate wide-spread situations such as those similar to Terrelle Pryor and Ohio State, but it would be particularly beneficial to those such as White.
So what’s the hold up? The short answer: Lack of funds. The longer answer: Title IX.
Enacted in 1972 as an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title IX forbids discrimination on the basis of sex at schools that receive federal aid. It covers medical schools, law schools and, most notably, athletic programs despite no explicit mention of sports in its wording.
In particular, it stresses proportionality, which says the number of athletes from each sex should be equivalent to the school’s enrollment percentages. Therefore, if half of a school’s student body is made up of women, then half of its athletes should be women as well.
Thus, stipends must be proportionate as well.
USC, among other schools across the country, would be restricted from solely subsiding stipends for football players. It would need to cover all sports, from football, to men’s basketball, to women’s rowing.
That might be more money than most schools are capable of paying.
It’s certainly an issue that needs to be fixed — if only it wasn’t a logistical nightmare.
“The 19th Hole” ran every other Wednesday. To comment on this article, email Joey at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit dailytrojan.com.