There’s are a number of questions Fred Glass would want to ask before he’d be willing to get behind any proposal that would lead to student athletes being paid better than they already are.
For instance, where would the money come from? Who would be receiving additional funds? If the Big Ten were to make the decision to start giving extra, how would that affect the rest of Division I?
Still, the Indiana athletic director said, he’s just happy Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany started the discussion.
At the Big Ten spring meetings last week, Delany told reporters that there was some talk within the conference about giving student athletes a stipend that lessens the gap between what they get now and the total cost of attendance. A full scholarship covers tuition, room and board and books, but studies have shown that the average student athlete has to spend $2,000 to $5,000 beyond that for clothing, transportation and other basic living expenses.
“I think it makes sense to look at that and what the costs are and to try to anticipate whatever outcomes there are,” Glass said Monday. “I think it’s too early to say whether I or Indiana would be for or against it. But to me, starting with the full cost of attendance is an equity issue that may make a lot of sense.”
Glass, though, said he might not support such a proposal if it meant cutting non-revenue sports in order to make sure that football and men’s basketball players were compensated with the full cost of attendance. It’s hard to imagine that it won’t at least cause some problems in that area. With 85 football players on scholarship and 13 men’s basketball players, giving each an extra $3,000 per year would cost each school $294,000. Compensating every scholarship athlete in the athletic department would take it closer to $1 million.
“The key part of this whole thing is, ‘Where does the money come from?’” Glass said. “Candidly, it’s a big issue in the Big Ten, because I believe the average number of sports we support is 26. We’re at 24, I think Ohio State is at the high end at 36. … I think the Big Ten has always stood for having the broadest amount of opportunity for student athletes. A lot of that could have some adverse impacts for the continuation of our sports, and I think if this leads to contraction of sports, it’s a non-starter.”
Glass said he would also be concerned about the effect of additional funds for student athletes on smaller conferences in smaller schools. The Big Ten started a trend with the Big Ten Network, as the major conferences have been able to sign megadeals for their media rights. Texas will have a 24-hour network for itself on ESPN starting this year.
Obviously, smaller conferences don’t bring in those kind of funds, and therefore would find it much harder to fund any sort of stipend or additional money beyond the basics, putting them at an even greater disadvantage.
That should also be considered, Glass said, but it’s still better that those concerns should be brought to the table than to not discuss the concept at all.
“I actually think whatever competitive consequences there are have to be taken into account,” Glass said. “We’ll try to evaluate it. I don’t think the Big Ten should say, ‘Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead,” regardless of the economic impacts of all institutions. But frankly I’m proud of the Big Ten of being willing to look at that and at least considering putting it’s money where it’s mouth is in terms of student welfare. We could easily stay fat, dumb and happy and say we don’t have to do anything for all of these reasons including parity. I think the conference deserves a gold star for being out in front of this. But all those ripple effects have to be taken into account before there’s any legislation passed.”