The irony of the South Carolina head coach's assertion will come full circle when he peers over to the visitor's sideline when his team takes on Navy in Columbia on Sept. 17. That's because each one of the football players wearing blue and gold makes a boatload of money (pun intended) by NCAA standards - even the back-up long snapper for the Midshipmen makes more than any one the multitude of future NFL stars playing for Spurrier.
Indeed in this era of big money and embarrassing investigations that has consumed NCAA football, a small but undeniable fact has gone unreported by the mainstream media: Division I collegiate athletes have been getting paid for over 100 years. That's right, from the aforementioned back-up long snapper to even the walk-on volleyball striker, every athlete at Navy, Army, and Air Force are raking in the dough…and have been...for decades.
Their paychecks, however, come with a bit of a disclaimer and there is no clause that binds them contractually to play a sport. To explain, student athletes who attend a service academy are actually active-duty members of the Armed Forces – and are compensated just as any gunnery sergeant serving in Afghanistan or Admiral at the Pentagon would be paid on a monthly basis.
In fact, Midshipmen (at Navy) and Cadets (at Air Force and Army) pull in $11,692 per year which equates to $3,897 for a four-month football season. That is in addition to a four-year full scholarship each receives which is worth somewhere in the $400,000 ballpark.
In return for their paycheck and education, after graduating, Navy football players like Alexander Teich must serve five years in either the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps. And that's why Teich and his teammates can claim to be the highest paid athletes in college football -because there are enormous and honorable strings attached.
The fact that outspoken figures like Spurrier are calling for players to be paid does make for some interesting conversation though in Annapolis. When asked if Teich would be using his salary as a ‘talking point' to his unpaid opposition in Columbia, he laughed.
"I'm making $650 a month (after expenses)…I'm doing ok (financially)," said Teich. "But, I won't be talking trash (to South Carolina players) about how much I make. I will be talking trash though," he joked.
On a more serious note, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo sees a lot of potential problems if the NCAA decides to allow student-athletes to be paid.
"I just don't know how you regulate it. I think the big schools could get away with it but what about the smaller schools? They wouldn't be able to pay…and do you just pay football players? What about the swimmers and the other sports that don't generate money? Who actually gets paid?" said Niumatalolo.
"And if you do pay them, how much is it? Some guys have said that they just want (players) to have money to do this or that. Athletes aren't the only students who are struggling in college. I think a lot of college students are eating Ramen (noodles). I just don't know where the line is. Do you give them $500…$100…$50 for a pizza? I think there is some merit in it – I just don't know how you regulate it and what the exact formula is," he continued.
NOTE ABOUT MIDSHIPMEN PAY
According to the Naval Academy Public Affairs office, all Midshipmen (not just athletes) receive $974.40 in total monthly pay. After standard deductions and fees, including those for tickets to Naval Academy sporting events and for services such as the laundry, barbershop, and tailoring, each midshipman receives a monthly stipend based on their class level. Stipends are fixed for the first three years: Fourth Class ($100.00), Third Class ($200.00), and Second Class ($300.00). First Class midshipmen receive a monthly stipend of approximately $530.00, but it varies by midshipman depending on individual circumstances since the First Class stipend is based on actual monthly pay minus actual monthly deductions.
NOTE ABOUT COMPENSATION FOR FOOTBALL PLAYERS OUTSIDE OF NAVY
According to the sports information directors at East Carolina, San Jose State, and Delaware, their football players are provided with mostly all meals if they coincide with an obligation related to their sport. In a rare occurrence, per diem may be given to players if other meal arrangements cannot be made. In addition to schools being allowed to provide meals, or per diem to cover them, players are also allowed to keep their athletic apparel (minus equipment) when their careers are over. These benefits, as well as a full scholarship, are the only benefits allowed under current NCAA rules.
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