How SEC Coaches See New COA Policy

BamaMag.com was present at the 2015 SEC Media Days in Hoover, a perfect venue to seek opinions involving the new policy affecting the most competitive league in the land. New Commissioner Greg Sankey explained the intended consequences of sharing the cost of attendance and promoting transparency among all SEC members,

“I think it’s just an effort to make sure people understand the methodology,” Sankey said. “Obviously, we’ve understood cost of attendance awards can vary, and the methods used to calculate and arrive at those amounts can vary. It really is simply, from an intended standpoint, the ability for an institution to understand what goes into those numbers.”

Fourteen coaches asked the same question may reveal a core belief relative to the subject matter but a variation on the theme is inevitable. Every SEC head football coach is pleased legislation passed allowing student-athletes to receive COA. All were approached by BamaMag.com to address how the specific cost of attendance offered by their school impacted recruiting and their program?

Here in the second part of our report on Cost Of Attendance payments are those responses, along with the added Cost of Attendance calculations for each school. If only one figure is given, that school has determined additional cost of attendance is the same for in-state and out-of-state students.

Western Division

Alabama ($4,172 in-state, $5,386 out-of-state)

Alabama Nick Saban, “First of all, I think this is an outstanding thing that we’ve done to improve a scholarship for a young man, student-athletes in general, to be able to have a little better benefit as a league and as a coach. We’ve always advocated a little better quality of life for the players relative to what they do for their institutions, and I’m glad to see this. I’ve not really, in my experience, our experience so far in recruiting – now, we don’t use this as a recruiting tool. We don’t talk to players about this. We talk about the value that we create in personal development, in the success that we’ve had with our players academically and their opportunity to develop a career off the field if they attend The University of Alabama, and the quality of how we’ve developed players and the success that those players have had individually, from a team standpoint, as well as having an opportunity to have a career at the next level. And we do a lot of career development stuff to help them launch their career when they leave. So those are the things that we sell. So this has not changed our recruiting, and there’s not been a lot of questions asked about it. Now, maybe it will have an impact in the future. I don’t think that’s the intention of cost of attendance. I think it’s to improve the quality of the student-athlete’s life, not to be used as a recruiting tool.”

Arkansas ($4,104)

Arkansas Brett Bielema, “Surprisingly, I have not had one – I can honestly – one of the great things I learned in life is you always tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said. I have not had one recruiting conversation with a prospect, player or coach, about cost of attendance. Now, we’re not the first in the SEC, but we’re not the last. So I don’t know where that’s going to wind up. It’s something I’m sure is going to be modified. Everything that the NCAA does, it always sounds great up front and there’re a few things they always come back and modify. It seems there’s probably some of those things out there. What I’m happy for is young men get to have a little money in their pocket to do some great things. But I’m going to also share with this room, you give a young man 18, 19, 20, 21 with a little bit of pocket change, with a lot of money to make bad decisions, things can go sideways in a New York minute. So you got a kid that’s never had $1,000 in his pocket, and all of a sudden he’s got $2,000, that’s dangerous. That leads to dumb decisions. I think we have to monitor that as coaches and be aware of that. So as much as I love it, I flew in with J-Will and Keon. J-Will is from Allen, Texas, and Keon is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I said, how many times do your parents come to the games? Both of them said, when they started playing, their parents try to come to every game. I said ‘home game?’ They said, ‘Coach, home and away.’ Well, I know how much that costs. Now, kids start giving their money to their mom and dads who don’t have that, that’s awesome. But sometimes those decisions we make maybe aren’t the best thing in the long run. But I’m happy that our players are getting rewarded. I’m happy that we didn’t as coaches have to do it. Coach Spurrier offered up $150,000 from each one of our contracts my first year, and I’m like, I’m sure you can sign that contract. I’ve got to ask my wife. I can’t sign that thing. We hopefully have come around that in the right way and hopefully be paid all for.”

Auburn ($5,586)

Auburn Gus Malzahn, “I really don’t think it’s impacted it too much. We just state the facts for recruits coming in. But I am glad we have it.”

LSU ($3,336)

LSU Les Miles, “I think our numbers have been very positive. I think our guys have enjoyed the raise if you will. I don’t know if it is something we lead with. When you have excess money that you need to buy blue jeans, go to the movies, to eat, to enjoy your time, then I think that’s plenty, right. If it’s 50 bucks less than the other guy or 50 bucks more than the other guy I don’t think that makes any difference. I think it’s more about LSU’s education and future career.”

Mississippi State ($5,154)

Mississippi State Dan Mullen, “I think that we’re near the top of the SEC in cost of attendance of what we can get for the players. It certainly hasn’t hurt us. We haven’t really used it that much in the recruiting standards because to me it’s a fluctuating number as it relates to federal standards every year. It’s not going to be consistent from one year to the next. So to really use that as the selling point for our university over another school is I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s right and I don’t think it’s really honest in how you are talking to the kids.”

Ole Miss ($4,600)

Ole Miss Hugh Freeze, “We’re fortunate that it is one of the top 15 in the country so if we chose to use that in recruiting I think it would be advantageous for us. We don’t talk about it a lot really. I think the bigger issue is how are they going to manage it. For us it can be a positive for sure. We’ve already brought in a management – financial management team from a local bank that has been very thorough in explaining to them. We’ve broken down the exact distribution of how it’s going to work to make sure that they’re being responsible with that money that they’re given. It’s obviously a good thing for them to have that, but it also, if mismanaged, can be a bad thing. We will continue to try to educate them as to the best way to use that money”

Texas A&M ($3,064 in-state, $3,592 out-of-state)

Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin, “We really haven’t seen an impact yet on that number. I know that all the numbers are starting to be released and people are starting to compare them. I would say as we get closer to signing date, maybe in the season, those things are going to ….It may have a bigger affect later than it does now. I look for a bunch of cost of attendance numbers across the country to change over the course of the next couple of years.”

Eastern Division

Florida ($3,320)

Florida Jim McElwain, “I think as long as everybody’s running by the same rules, that’s your - it’s federal guidelines, right? So there’s not one thing or another. Obviously, we’d like to have a balanced sheet across the board but at the same time, there’s a reason those are in place. I think it’s great for the student-athlete. I think it really gives them an opportunity. I’m happy to see it happen, and I’m glad to see that we’ve come to it that way. We’ll see. If you lose a guy over $1,000 here or there for his cost of attendance, maybe that’s part of it. There’s nothing you can do. Those are the rules. Growing up, you got a set of rules, and you just played by them. I never really put that much thought to that part of it other than I’m excited that they are getting something.”

Georgia ($3,222, out-of-state $3,746)

Georgia Mark Richt, “Well, I don’t think it’s really affected us much at all. It’s not really come up as a big point of conversation. But we are very – we feel very good about our situation. We certainly have the cost of attendance numbers, but there’s also some things that can be done in a creative way that is well within the rules that can get us in pretty good shape on that front. So we know Georgia can do just as well as anywhere in the country as far as taking care of our players, and we don’t think it’s going to have a negative effect at all.”

Kentucky ($3,330, out-of-state $3,598)

Kentucky Mark Stoops, “Not real clear on where the numbers come from other than I know they don’t come from the athletic department. So it’s an administrative decision. It is what it is. We’ll play under the rules that they give us. Again, I’m glad like most coaches will tell you that we’re giving them something. I haven’t seen an effect on it (recruiting/program) yet. What happens down the road, there is not enough data on it right now. I don’t know if there is enough information out there. I’m sure the colleges at the top end are using it more than the rest of us that are in the middle of the pack or below but I really haven’t noticed it too much yet.”

Missouri ($3,742)

Missouri Gary Pinkel, “Honestly, we didn’t really talk about it at all recruiting-wise. I don’t know – first of all, I think the most important thing is – and I’ve been a proponent of this for several years and got criticized quite a bit. We’re doing the right things for our student-athletes, for our students. All of them, men and women in the Power Five, obviously, financially, we can do it. We’re doing the right things to help them. They can’t go home and work for three months and then come back. They don’t do that anymore, none of the men or women or the students that we have. They work on – they go to school and they do their sports. So this allows them to get some more money in the right way, and more importantly, I think it’s the right way. How the different formulas for coming up with cost of attendance, I think that will be reviewed the next year or two. But I think we don’t forget the reason why we did this was to help the student-athletes. I think it’s a huge plus for them.”

South Carolina ($4,201)

South Carolina Steve Spurrier, “I guess we’ll find out in February when they sign. Commitment-wise, we’ve got a few, probably normal around the country. But we’re a little bit above the average, I think. We’re right around $4,200. So we’ve learned that whatever it is, it is. We’re not going to argue or cry about it. If some schools can give a little bit more, so be it. Supposedly, the federal government regulates this. The chief financial officer at each school sets the number, and that’s just the way it is. Let’s go play ball. We’re not going to worry about it. We’re going to get our athletes that $4,201. I think that is what it is. So we’ll live with it.”

Tennessee ($5,666)

Tennessee Butch Jones, “The cost of attendance has been a big topic and that’s a federal government formula. We do not dictate that. We do not have any control of that, and I know there have been numerous questions how has that affected your recruiting and really at the end of the day in our league, a young man, I believe, is going to pick a school because that’s where he wants to go to school. He wants to be a part of that institution. He likes the academics there and he has a rapport and a great relationship with the coaches and he wants to be a part of something special. So as coaches, we have no input. We have no say on in any cost of attendance issues or formulas that they have.”

Vanderbilt ($2,780, not including transportation costs)

Vanderbilt Derek Mason, “Cost of attendance really hasn’t impacted Vanderbilt. I believe our brand and who we are caters to a specific student-athlete, and our standards are as such that we’re going to continue to look at student-athletes who fit our profile. But when you talk about the money in terms of cost of attendance, I think that’s about making sure that the student-athlete can afford to go back-and-forth and can afford to have a meal or two. So, the cost of attendance really hasn’t impacted us. I think the quality of education at Vanderbilt really stands for itself, and when we look at best practices and opportunities to play in the SEC, it’s an opportunity second to none. So the academic opportunity, the athletic opportunity, student-athletes are still looking for the best value that money can buy and Vanderbilt is by far, I believe, provides that.”

Next: How Alabama determined its Full Cost of Attendance.


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