By a 79-1 vote at the NCAA Convention this weekend, the five power conferences and Notre Dame were given a measure of autonomy to make their own rules, among them offering full cost of attendance scholarships. Only Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference voted against the measure, which will allow schools to pay their scholarship athletes for things like transportation and other expenses beyond the usual room, board, tuition books and fees.
This is a rule proposed years ago that is finally seeing the light just steps ahead of lawsuits and court decisions that could neuter the NCAA. The courts have shown a good bit of favoritism toward athletes who are seen as cheap labor for an organization, which generates billions in revenue each year. While the rule is well intentioned, it is going to need some fine tuning because no sooner was it announced that cost of attendance scholarships were the rule of the day than the Austin American-Statesman reported that the University of Texas will give its scholarship athletes something in the range of $4,500-5,000 per year, far more than the $2,000-3,000 number that has been thrown out in most of the studies.
What the Texas announcement proves is that nobody is looking at this rule as one size fits all.
At Florida, for example, that $3,00 number might be a good fit because the total cost of attending a year at Florida for an in-state student is a little less than $17,000 and the overall cost of living is a bargain compared to big cities like Miami, Atlanta and metro areas up north. From an affordability viewpoint, a $3,000 a year stipend for Florida’s approximately 250 scholarship athletes is only $750,000 a year. Florida pays more than that in guarantees to cupcake teams from non-power conferences that come to Gainesville to take a September beating in exchange for a paycheck. With the cost of tickets going up $3 per game in the fall and the SEC Network expected to kick in millions, it wouldn’t matter if UF wanted to pay the athletes $4,000 per year. It’s affordable.
But what about a school like Stanford, where tuition alone is $58,000 a year and the total cost of attendance is approximately $85,000? Or Southern Cal, which is only slightly less. In those locales, $3,000 a year doesn’t go nearly as far as it does in Gainesville. They might be looking at $6,000 or maybe more.
This is where the NCAA and the power conferences are going to have to make some hard decisions. What happens if Phil Knight (Nike founder and chairman) decides Oregon athletes deserve $10,000 a year? The cost of funding the cost of attendance money for the entire athletic department wouldn’t equal more than a day or two interest on his billions. The same goes for T. Boone Pickens at Okie State. Do you think for a second those same Aggie boosters who kicked in more than $450 million a couple of years ago would balk at writing the checks so that A&M athletes could make more money than those at Texas?
Giving athletes some money to cover their things like incidentals and transportation to and from school as well as offer some assistance so their parents can afford to go to games has always been a very good idea. But, now that the rule is in place and it’s possible for schools to offer something beyond the standard scholarship, how long before we see it lead to ethical breakdowns and wholesale cheating at a level that we have never seen before?
It’s something to think about.
Even in a year in which injuries and suspensions kept Billy Donovan from fielding a complete team for all but a couple of games, Donovan knew he could depend on defense to keep the Gators in games. Through their first 16 games, no team shot 50% from the field but all that changed Saturday against Georgia in Athens. The Bulldogs shot 56% from the field and 53.3% from the 3-point line to end Florida’s unbeaten streak in SEC play at 24 games. This is a Florida team that doesn’t have nearly the pieces in place that it had in any of the previous four seasons so it’s going to have to gut out games by playing defense and doing the small things it takes to win games. When the Gators can’t play a lick of defense, and turn the ball over 19 times as they did Saturday, they’re in trouble. It’s back to the drawing board for Donovan. LSU comes to town Tuesday and the Tigers have a lot better shooters than those the Gators saw in Athens.
All Brandon Bostickhad to do was catch the football. He was on the Green Bay Packers’ “hands” team, sent out to handle an onside kick with 2:09 remaining in Saturday’s NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks. Bostick is a tight end on a team that uses its tight ends extensively, so supposedly he can catch the football. Did you see what happened with the onside kick? Somehow it missed his hands altogether and hit the facemask of his helmet. Seattle recovered, scored the go-ahead touchdown and prevailed in overtime, 28-22, to punch its ticket to the Super Bowl. As for Bostick, it might not be a good time to invest in long term real estate deals in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The trademark for Dan Quinn when he was Florida’s defensive coordinator was halftime adjustments. Remember that trip to Aggieland in 2012 when Johnny Manziel ran the Gators ragged in the first half then could barely muster a first down in the second? That was Quinn at his best. When Quinn departed Gainesville for the NFL, things were never the same with the Gators. Yes, injuries ravaged the Gators in 2013, but D.J. Durkin was never the defensive coordinator Quinn was and the lack of halftime adjustments had almost as much to do with the slide from 11-2 to 4-8 as the injuries.
What we saw in the second half Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks made that miraculous comeback to beat the Green Bay Packers and advance to the Super Bowl was vintage Quinn. Green Bay dominated the first half for a 16-0 lead that was in no small part due to the contributions of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who played the worst half of football of his career. Everything changed after the half, however. Running lanes shut down. The midrange passes that Aaron Rogers always had at his disposal in the first half were well covered. The same Seattle defense that struggled in the first half dominated the Packers in the second. Quinn kept the Seahawks in the game until Wilson and the offense figured a few things out. While Monday’s headlines will talk about the touchdown pass that Wilson threw in overtime to win the game, Quinn’s defense is what made it all possible.
Keep an eye on Houston Texans wide receivers coach Stan Hixon. He’s a Lakeland native who was the wide receivers coach and assistant head coach for Nick Saban at LSU from 2000-03. There are some whispers that he wants to return to (a) college football and (b) the state of Florida. Could he be on Jim McElwain’s radar? … There are reports that Quinn will be named head coach of the Atlanta Falcons the day after the Super Bowl. Those same reports say that a deal has been struck with Kyle Shanahan to become the Falcons’ offensive coordinator … There is another report that the San Francisco 49ers have Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin on their radar … Florida quality control assistant Blake Gideon will be a defensive graduate assistant at Auburn for Will Muschamp.
Because they so rarely sell out Sun Life Stadium, Miami is going to hang banners in the upper deck of each end zone in an attempt to make the stadium look like it’s got a big crowd. Capacity is 75,000 but with reduced capacity due to renovations and the banners, the U will only have to sell 55,000 seats for a sellout ... There was a press conference at Ohio State Thursday to announce that quarterback Cardale Jones will be returning for his junior year rather than bolt for the NFL. On Mike and Mike Friday, Jones made it a point to tell the audience that the press conference wasn’t his idea … The press conference for Jones paled in comparison to the one Mississippi State held when Dak Prescott announced he’s returning. Mississippi State released a video that’s akin to Superman returning to Smallville … CBS basketball analyst Greg Anthony was arrested in Washington, DC and charged with soliciting a prostitute. CBS suspended Anthony indefinitely and it’s being reported that he will not work again this basketball season … Princeton’s spring game will be held in Osaka, Japan, where the Tigers will face Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan’s national college football champs. Yes, they play college football in Japan and it’s catching on in Korea, too … In California, the head girls basketball coach at Arroyo Valley High School was suspended two games for beating Bloomington High School, 161-2. The score was 104-1 at the half. The coach at Bloomington said nobody should feel sorry for his team but should feel sorry for the Arroyo coach because his teams don’t learn the game the right way. Huh?
Do you see cost of attendance scholarships a good thing or do you think it’s going to prove to be a nightmare for the NCAA?
I was in the mood for Southern rock and roll this weekend, which meant listening to some Widespread Panic. I’ve always been partial to their 1994 release “Ain’t Life Grand.” This is a live version of the title song of the album, performed in 2008 at their induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.