By Jay Jacobs, director of athletics at Auburn University
As the director of athletics at Auburn University, it should come as no surprise how deeply I care about the students whose welfare is entrusted to me. But as a proud Alabamian, I also feel strongly that collectively we must work harder to level the playing field for existing student-athletes who represent each of our fine public universities across this great state.
That's why I want to bring to your attention a matter that many of you might not be aware of: the state of Alabama's scholarship disadvantage.
To explain, the NCAA permits a certain number of scholarships to be awarded in each sport. For instance, the NCAA only allows 11.7 pure athletic scholarships to be awarded for a baseball program. Every university in our state, including Auburn, strictly adheres to those NCAA standards. However, many competing members in the Southeastern Conference are able to rely on additional financial aid on top of the allowable athletic scholarship numbers by way of lottery-based academic scholarships, such as the Hope Scholarship in Georgia or the Bright Futures Scholarship in Florida.
These supplemental academic scholarships being awarded to student-athletes don't count against those overall NCAA limits. This places our home state universities which do not have such additional scholarships available at an obvious competitive disadvantage – especially to many SEC rivals in the equivalency sports of baseball, softball, soccer, swimming and diving, track and field, men's tennis and men's and women's golf.
Because we have less scholarship support in total to offer, our existing equivalency sport programs are often forced to battle out-of-state competition with a greater number of academic and supplemental scholarship supported student-athletes. This needs to change – not just for my own Auburn University, but also for the good of every other public university in our state.
Because of this, I proposed legislation at our SEC spring meetings that would force our competitors to count their supplemental academic scholarships toward their overall, NCAA-dictated athletic scholarship cap. This would negate the unfair disadvantage Alabama students and universities face. Unfortunately, this legislation did not pass, but I can assure you it was merely a first step.
My fight has only begun. I will continue to aggressively pursue a solution that ensures college students from our state have the resources they need to be successful in the classroom while competing on a level field of play.
As Alabamians, we should settle for nothing less.