Stipends problematic for collegiate athletes

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.



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3 replies
  1. David Vande Bunte
    David Vande Bunte says:

    The answer to the USC athletes is obvious: get roommates.

    “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.”

    This figure assumes an athlete is living alone. As soon as he gets one roommate, his share of the rent drops to 450 bucks, and he gets to keep the other 450 bucks. Both athletes receive the 1,100 stipend each, not combined. So, they receive a total of 2,200 dollars, with rent costs of 900. Add a 3rd roommate, also a full scholarship athlete, and you have 3,300 dollars received, compared to 900 going out. Each athlete would get to keep 800 dollars a month, just by living with 2 roomies.

  2. USC Athlete Parent
    USC Athlete Parent says:

    While I agree that there needs to be a “fix” to how collegiate athletes are compensated, let’s share a few more facts. Both the football and basketball teams have free training tables (i.e. excellent free food) every day so the $5/day food allotment is not accurate–these players aren’t starving! Plus, there are living arrangements less than $900/month. Our water polo son lives with 2 other players in a nice older home close to campus for $450/month each. And yes, while he has his books covered with his scholarship, we pay for tuition, room and board. And even though the water polo team has won three national championships there are no full scholarships, no training table and no lucrative pro contract potentially waiting despite being the best in the US at their sport. These incredible young men are playing for the pure joy of the sport–what a concept.

    However, it’s understood that football brings in the big bucks so here’s a possible solution. First, cut the scholarships to 66 but increase what each players gets…do we really need to subsidize the 3rd string? Or, let the NFL cover the costs of the training of their athletes… let’s face it, the NFL benefits from these kids… so the NFL each year would identify the top players (say 600 but no more than 12 at a particular campus) who they deem are potential pro players and let them foot the cost of room/board and an agreed-upon living expense. At the same time, these players take a different “track” in college. They are not required to take a full load (let’s face it, some rarely go to class), but instead take a “pro career” track in which they take required classes in money management, public relations, hiring an agent, real estate, i.e. the kind of information that they are really going to need. And each year, on the playing field, they earn the right to be on the top 600. At the same time, the college gives these “chosen” athletes a full “return to campus” pass so that if they get hurt, or not picked up by the NFL, they can return to school all expenses paid within 10 years of leaving… this way, we aren’t abandoing them when life didn’t work out as planned. Just a thought….

    • Carol Perdue
      Carol Perdue says:

      @USC Athlete Parent-Hey, I think you have a great idea. Being a student is hard at any age. But I really like the idea of the “kind of information that they are really going to need.” Everyone needs a backup plan. So many athletes don’t make the big time, hopefully, they go on to graduate from college and become an upstanding, law abiding citizen.

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