Walden, Wulff frame debate on paying players

THE CRY GROWS louder every year, make that every month, to pay college athletes a modest stipend to meet their basic needs. Just don't add Jim Walden's voice to the growing din.

It's become a popular siren call of late, a combination of large television-conference deals, outrageous coaches salaries and football players bartering merchandise for life's necessities.

College athletics is big business, a business that depends on the performance of athletes. In return, many receive a scholarship to pay their college tuition, books and boarding expenses, although in the case of minor sports, a scholarship of one-third to one-half is common.

Athletic departments not only pay the bills, and in some cases turn a profit, through ticket and merchandise sales and donations, money that ebbs and flows based on performance.

Meanwhile, it's been said some college athletes try to stretch their dwindling supply of ramen noodles until the next scholarship check shows up. A scholarship that for an on-campus student-athlete typically allows for 10 meals a week, off-campus five meals a week, plus $35 meal money.

Fair? Washington State football coach Paul Wulff recently told the Denver Post that its time the NCAA allowed colleges to give monthly stipends of about $200 so athletes have enough money to eat.

"I think the kids need more money, period. They say they can work a job, but it's unrealistic for what we ask these guys to do," Wulff said. "I don't want to hear a kid say, "Coach, I don't have enough money to eat.' It harms their performance."

To which former WSU football coach Jim Walden says bull.

"They're already getting a boatload of money," Walden said. "If a kid wants to come to school and play athletics, fine. If you want to be a regular student and get a job, fine. No one is forcing these kids to play sports."

Told Wulff advocates some form of a stipend for athletes, Walden said, well, duh.

"All head coaches say that. It's the proper thing to say when you're a head coach," Walden said. "I probably would have said it when I was coaching, too, but I didn't worry too much about it."

The problems with giving an athlete a stipend are two fold.

One, the college can't just give it to athletes in the revenue sports like football and basketball. What's given to the scholarship starting left tackle has to be given to the scholarship coxswain. Also, what's good for athletes at Ohio State is also good for athletes at Washington State and Weber State. A stipend for all scholarship athletes would bust the budget at many small schools.

Even at $200 a month for a scholarship athlete, the yearly total would easily exceed $500,000 for a college athletic department.

"You're dreaming if you're going to pay the football players and not pay the rowing team and gymnastics team. Who says the football player is more important even if they're putting money into athletics?" Walden said.

Two, how much is enough? $200? $400? Whatever the amount, soon there would be discussion for an increase. And it's unlikely there is any amount that would keep the entitled like Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor from taking handouts.

"The more money you give them, the more problems," Walden said.

During his coaching career, Walden said he rarely, if ever, had problems with athletes going without a meal.

"I always had the most problems with parking tickets and cars. It was always the guys with money," Walden said.

Walden believes scholarship athletes are better off at Washington State than many schools because of its proximity.

"Where would you rather have 20 bucks in your pocket, Pullman or L.A.?" Walden said. "Washington State benefits greatly from where it is located."

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