In his 1902 novel “Tale of the Monkey’s Paw,” W.W. Jacobs wrote, “Be careful what you wish for.”
One hundred thirteen years later, after years of griping and complaining that college athletes need more than just a scholarship to get by, we have this thing called cost of attendance. It kicks in this week in all 65 schools that belong to the Power Five (plus Notre Dame) and in some other conferences where it is going to be a struggle to keep up with the big guys whose conferences have their own television networks, deep pockets contracts with ESPN, CBS, NBC and Fox Sports and stadiums that seat 60,000 or more fans.
There is a so-called formula for the cost of attendance that goes beyond room, board, tuition, books and fees. It is set by the NCAA but it is fairly obvious that nobody is paying attention to it. All you have to do is look at the discrepancy between what schools like Tennessee ($5,666) and Auburn ($5,586) will pay beyond the standard athletic scholarship and what schools like Boston College ($1,700) and Ohio State ($2,602) are offering.
The discrepancy between Auburn’s figure and Alabama’s initial figure of $2,892 caused the bean counters at Alabama to sharpen their pencils and come up with a new figure -- $ 4,172 for in-state athletes (only 26 scholarship players from Alabama on the football team) and $5,386 for out-of-state athletes. Among the things considered by Alabama in changing its stipend figures, transportation costs were figured at 57 cents per mile ($1,806 for an in-state athlete and $3,020 for an out-of-state student) and cell phone plans with data that range from $80-100 a month.
Just transferring Alabama’s transportation and cell phone numbers to Florida, the $3,320 stipend Gator athletes will receive would be eaten alive. At $1,806 for in-state transportation and an $80 a month cell phone plan, the total comes to $2,766, leaving less than $50 a month for incidentals. It seems logical that Florida will adjust its figures to higher levels to keep up with the likes of Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama and even Mississippi State.
And, it is probably safe to assume that Florida isn’t the only school in the SEC or nationwide that will consider adjusting its numbers. Given that some coaches are already touting their higher stipends for recruiting advantages, can anyone afford to stay at the bottom tier? And, will the domino effect of everybody adjusting their numbers create a Wild West mentality on the recruiting trail?
Considering the cutthroat activities on the recruiting trail that existed before there were stipends, the answer to that would be yes.
It’s interesting that Nick Saban is the one who has been calling for what amounts to a salary cap.
Back at the SEC’s spring meetings in Destin where he said, “We don’t want to have any system that enhances fraudulent behavior for a competitive edge,” Saban noted that the NFL has a salary cap. But, would capping cost of attendance play into the hands of opponents of the NCAA who demand that athletes get paid to play?
So, the Division I schools that have been demanding the ability to give money to their athletes have what they asked for and it has the ability to become a far bigger mess than anyone could have anticipated. Sometimes when you get what you ask for you wish maybe you had asked for something else.
Here is what some prominent coaches are saying about cost of attendance stipends. Their school’s cost of attendance dollars are in parentheses.
“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 glad to see that happen.”
“I know I went to college a long time ago, but if I got a check from my parents for $20, that was pretty fantastic. That would get me probably through two weeks of some pizza and a beverage on the weekend or two. … (Players) have the opportunity even to save some of this money hopefully, not just go spend it all, save some of it so that — as they’re graduating, if they have an opportunity to save $1,500 a year, they’re walking out the door with $6,000 in a bank account to go get a job.”
“That’s wrong and it needs to be fixed. So, whoever came up with that ruling … it’s wrong. So there needs to be a standardized (stipend). I’m surprised there hasn’t been more conversation about it. It hasn’t hit us in recruiting yet, but regardless, that’s wrong. So, they’ve got to fix this.”
“It’s the first time cash has been part of the recruiting, legally. Now you get $6,000 to come here, $4,000 to go there, and it’s within the rules.”
“Our players will have a little pocket money and hopefully some money to give their parents to cover expenses for attending the games.”
“Our number, I believe, is the 13th-best in the country, around $4,200 for every scholarship athlete on campus. We will disperse it at about $200 every two weeks, I think.”
“We’ve been very creative at getting our numbers to a good spot.”
“So you give a kid that’s never had $1,000 in his pocket and all of a sudden he’s got $2000, that’s dangerous. That leads to dumb decisions. I think we have to monitor that as coaches.”
“Cost of attendance matters. Do we need to be giving guys $5,000? No way. Why can’t we find a happy medium for everybody in the country to say, ‘Give them $1000 a semester.’ We have guys who come from difficult backgrounds. I get that. But $5,000? My first job I got paid $14,000 to coach tight ends. There’s got to be a happy medium.”
“I love it. … It’s something I’m going to be able to use in recruiting. No different than when I put up the graduation rates of Penn State and every other school in the conference and then the graduation rates of Penn State and all the other schools I think we compete against nationally. I’m also able to do the same thing now with cost of attendance.”
LSU 28, Florida 21; October 11, 1997
This game was a gift. The Gators came into the game ranked #1 but they played like they had no business in the top 25, turning the ball over five times. Doug Johnson threw four interceptions including one pick six and was sacked five times and Bo Carroll fumbled a kickoff that LSU recovered and turned into the clinching touchdown. The game ended an NCAA record streak of 62 games in which the Gators had thrown at least one touchdown pass. Fred Taylor gained 89 yards on 22 carries and scored all three Florida touchdowns. When the clock struck zero in Baton Rouge, LSU fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts. It was the first time LSU had beaten the Gators since 1987. After the game, LSU defensive coordinator Carl Reese referred to Steve Spurrier as “Coach Shiny Pants,” a label that Reese gave Spurrier back in the USFL days. Spurrier beat LSU and Reese the next two years plus beat Nick Saban in 2000-01 before retiring as Florida’s coach. In the days after the loss to LSU, it was revealed that Johnson had broken curfew on Thursday before the Saturday night game, which resulted in a one-game suspension for the game the next week against seventh-ranked Auburn.
CBSSports.com surveyed three players each from all 14 SEC teams on a variety of subjects. Here are the results on the poll of best players and coaches.
Nick Saban, Alabama: 42%
Mark Richt, Georgia: 17%
Butch Jones, Tennessee: 13%
Les Miles, LSU: 8%
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: 8%
Gary Pinkel, Missouri: 4%
Gus Malzahn, Auburn 4%
Bret Bielema, Arkansas 4%
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: 26%
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: 19%
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida: 16%
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: 13%
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss: 6%
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss: 3%
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss: 3%
New York Jets corner Antonio Cromartie, who has had his run-ins with Tom Brady in the past, surprisingly came to Brady’s defense Thursday. Cromartie thinks the 4-game suspension levied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is excessive and breaks NFL rules. “I don't think [Brady] should be suspended,” Cromartie told ESPN on Thursday, via WEEI. “In the rulebook, there's no suspension in the rules. There's only a $25,000 fine. So I don't see how you can try to lay the hammer down on someone when the rule states for itself there's no suspension for it. There's only a maximum fine for $25,000." Cromartie went on to further rip Goodell, saying he is “going to make his own rules as he goes and it shouldn’t be like that.”
1. Muhammad Ali Fights: Back in those days, heavyweight championship fights were on television with Howard Cosell handling the commentary. There was chemistry and magic between Ali and Cosell and the fight nights were must see.
2. Marvin Hagler Fights: Marvelous Marvin could slug it out toe to toe or finesse you. His fights with Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard were classics.
3. Keith Jackson calling college football games: For more than 40 years, Keith Jackson was the voice of college football. Nobody framed a great play or a decisive moment better.
4. Multi-millionaire athletes who didn’t whine about their paychecks: Magic, Larry and Michael got paid millions and they never complained about their contracts and never whined that they’re having a tough time making ends meet.
5. Days when you didn’t need to take out a second mortgage to go to a Major League Baseball game: Have you priced a game at the Plastic Palace in St. Petersburg lately? For two people to go to a game with decent seats, parking and concessions the cost is going to be somewhere between $150-200. It’s out of sight for a family of four.
Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw is predicting the College Football Playoff will expand to eight teams within five years. “If you’re 9 or 10 it’s hard to argue you shouldn’t be national champion,” McCaw told ESPN senior writer Ivan Maisel. “But right now, if you’re #5, and you’re a conference champion, and you got left out, you can make a pretty good argument that you could have done what Ohio State did last year and win a national championship.”
Jon Gruden told Paul Finebaum that Butch Jones is the right fit for Tennessee. Asked how close he [Gruden] came to taking the UT job when it was offered a couple of years ago, Gruden said, “Tennessee is a dream job for a lot of people, me included. Timing wasn’t right.”
Alabama freshman running back Bo Scarbrough has been suspended for the first four games of 2015 for an NCAA issue. Yeah, that’s really going to matter. Scarbrough is rehabbing an ACL tear from spring practice. While he’s ahead of his rehab schedule, there are two chances he would have been medically cleared to play prior to October and game five: (1) no way and (2) no how.
Do you believe the current system for figuring cost of attendance will create bidding wars for athletes and recruiting scandals?
To wrap up Soul Music Week, I’ve got to go with my favorite performer from the 1960 and 1970s, Marvin Gaye. In his career, Marvin produced 25 studio albums, four live albums and one soundtrack album along with 83 singles. Of his singles, 13 hit number one on the R&B charts and three hits #1 on the Billboard pop charts. Like so many great musicians and performers of the 1960s and 1970s, Marvin died much too early, shot twice in the heart by his father whose mental state was altered by brain tumors.