An athletic scholarship pays for tuition, fees, room and board and books. But it doesn't cover such items as transportation, clothing and other living expenses -- the so-called full cost of attendance. Studies have suggested that there's a gap of about $3,000 per player between the scholarship allotment and the cost of attendance.
There have been calls to close that gap. In 2003, former NCAA president Myles Brand publicly favored a proposal to use men's basketball tournament funds to give athletes more pay. Current NCAA boss Mark Emmert has come out in support of the same idea and brought the issue up at the NCAA's April board meeting.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said his league talked about such a model this week in Chicago.
"Forty years ago, you had a scholarship plus $15 a month laundry money," Delany said. "Today, you have the same scholarship, but not with the $15 laundry money.
"How do we get back more toward the collegiate model and a regulatory system that is based more on student-athlete welfare than it is on a level playing field, where everything is about a cost issue and whether or not everybody can afford to do everything everybody else can do?"Two thoughts on this: first, this shouldn't hurt any Big Ten athletic departments all that badly. Assuming there are around 300 scholarship athletes total in each department, an extra $3000 per student comes out to less than a million dollars per sports department. With the unexpected success of the Big Ten Network and the recession-impervious sports contracts being doled out by television networks, $900,000 is peanuts.
Second, this is a warning to every mid-major football program in the FBS. You want a free market. A real free market? You want full competition? These teams can't break even with support from their universities and sometimes direct payments from the state fisc. An extra million dollars to athletes would be impossible at Eastern Michigan or Ball State; even Boise State will have a tough time of it. And that extra $3,000 per year could mean the difference between Indiana or Minnesota and, say, Central Michigan to the marginal recruits that turn down the Big Ten to become MAC superstars.