It's seems like nowadays everybody is falling all over themselves to give lip service to the "student-athlete." After UCONN National Champion Shabazz Napier complained of going to bed hungry sometimes earlier this year, there has been significant discussion as to the role of the student-athlete. Then, the Courts ruled in favor of Ed O'Bannon,potentially opening up thousands of dollars for student-athletes. This led to Texas basically making it thunderstorm for its student-athletes.
Texas will soon begin paying each of its student-athletes $10,000 a year to cover cost of attendance and likeness rights, athletics director Steve Patterson revealed at a Big 12 college sports forum in Washington on Tuesday.
The $10,000 will be split evenly, $5,000 apiece, between cost-of-attendance and payment for the University's use of the athlete's name and likeness (the figure U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken set in her O'Bannon trial ruling in August). (Cost-of-attendance, of course, varies from school to school and, thus, no uniform figure has been set since schools gave themselves the ability to provide COA stipends.) The total for all UT athletes adds up to $6 million a year.
It's always a competition to see who can promote the concept of the "student-athlete" the most, but now it seems as if things are shifting a bit. Actual, real changes are afoot and these may be improving life for student-athletes. This leads us to today where the Pac-12 announced sweeping changes to its student-athletes.
The Conference's new rules apply to Pac-12 student-athletes across all sports, and include:
Athletic scholarships will be guaranteed for four years for student-athletes in all sports.
Student-athletes who leave school before graduating will be able to use the remainder of their educational expenses later to earn their degrees.
Medical expenses for student-athletes who are injured during their college athletic careers will be covered for up to four years after a student-athlete leaves the institution.
Student-athletes who transfer between Pac-12 institutions will be able to receive athletic scholarships immediately.
Student-athletes will be represented in the Conference governance structure.
These changes had been foreshadowed by a letter Larry Scott wrote earlier this year.
In looking at these changes, the governance structure one seems least important, because people can be ignored whether inside or outside the system. The one that seems most important to me might be the transfer one. The one year sit out rule is designed to keep people from jumping quickly from school to school. This says that if they skip from school to school, they get a scholarship immediately. My question is whether that means they can play the next year. It doesn't seem to specify that. Does this just mean that they get a scholarship while they sit out? I do not know in specific, but if it does allow players to jump schools without much penalty, you'll see a lot more transferring.
The real problematic one for the schools would be the health care one. I'm sure anybody who has ever been a student-athlete or a human being would appreciate free health care. Our pet student-athlete, David Seawright, says that that would have really helped his wife:
I wonder what the increased costs here would be. Cal has major financial problems for the next few decades (aka the stadium debt). If we tack on increased health care costs for its students, then how does that affect our ability to pay off that debt? Now, you may say that this is a expenditure that you support 100%. Paying for the health care costs of the people who play games for our enjoyment makes sense. That's not necessarily my issue here. I'm trying to get a bead on how it'll affect the plan to pay the stadium debt.
This is especially true if all the schools have to keep up the joneses with the Texases of the world. In my piece on the O'Bannon ruling, I anticipated strongly that they would. Why would a recruit go to a school that DOESN'T pay you money? Anybody dumb enough to go to a Cal that doesn't pay you isn't smart enough to get into Cal!
Now, we're talking about a significant increase in annual costs. Cal Athletics is desperately trying to become self-sufficient (even if it seems like the only department to try). Even if you think those cost increases are 100% justifiable, Cal only has so much money to go around. This won't help them stop suckling at the university's teat. It'll be interesting to see how things go moving forward here. This is a difficult ballet for Cal here and they'll have to be smart to financially maintain pace with these changes and potential future ones, while also zeroing institutional support and paying off the stadium debt. If I was involved with a non-revenue Men's sports, I'd be gulping comedically loudly right about now.
But enough about me. What are your thoughts on this? I'm talking to you, David Seawright! Tell me in the comments and GO BEARS!