A Review Of Stipend Implementation In Collegiate Athletics

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Sports Administration 201

October 22nd, 2013

Nick Friedman & Lee Kyungmin

 

   




                 Below is a photo packed with profundity up for self-explanatory interpretation. Go ahead, take a stab as to who you might think that jersey belongs to.

 

                   

If able to associate a Florida State Seminole jersey reading number five with ACC quarterback savant formally known as Jameis Winston, you assumed correct. And in light of both the 18 year old’s marveling poundage of the nation’s third best team this past Saturday and the teenager’s progression through the ranks of Heisman Trophy candidate superstardom, Jameis Winston will sell hundreds of thousands to millions of informally recognized Jameis Winston merchandise. Yet, while ESPN reaps the $1.28 billion dollar over 12 year broadcastinginvestment benefits (what a rip off!) and hundreds of thousands pack Doak Campbell Stadium to capture the quarterbacking prowess of number five in number five first hand, number five wont see a dime of legitimate, over the table compensation for his outstanding effort. Instead, Jameis---through staggering statistics, an on field composure beyond his years, heart/soul and inordinate hours of unconscionably time consuming (to the non-collegiate athlete) pre-Saturday preparation---will lead his University to what could be, depending on a national championship appearance, roughly 20% of the BCS’s annual net revenue, an explosion in University based product sales and millions of dollar interest from corporate sponsors interested in having their name in the same stadium or on renovated practice facility where this “franchise cornerstone” will reside for the presumed next year and a half of his life.

                    What’s next for Jameis Winston or, for that matter, any NCAA athlete whom you can type into the search bar at ShopNCAASports.com and lo and behold find their jerseys from their corresponding school with their corresponding number on sale? Simple: Submissively take a backseat on a train captained by a governing official making $1.7 million a fiscal year with the uncanny ability to disguise self-interest in the confounding nature of amateurism or prepare to meet your maker. Chose the latter, publicly refute such overt exploitation unfortunately held in tact by Title XI and federal tax exemption, and you’ll receive nothing more than a reductionistic, art-holier-than-thou response: “You want to get paid. Well then play somewhere else. Because we, the NCAA, already give you more than enough”

                    Indeed, from the perspective of someone who is currently enrolled as an undergraduate student and works within a high major athletic program, Division I athletes do have access to a plethora of unique, awesome opportunity. For instance, when working a University of Miami basketball fund raising event, I get paid $250 as opposed to $500 a weekend; I don’t have access to a nutritionist or a personal training staff devoted to every waking hour of my physical success; or the resume builder of playing for a prestigious program under a prestigious basketball mind. But what I do have, however, is the luxury to do other things; the advantage of putting basketball aside to pursue lucrative employment ventures such as a summer internships or startup companies, or pick engaging, thought provoking classes that these guys can’t take because they conflict with sport; or time to cultivate my identity beyond sport without sacrificing the focus that will ultimately allow me to stay here. You know, because a scholarship is a year-to-year thing that can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Remember, the staff these kids are enlisted under could be out of a salary worthy significantly more than tenured professors if you don’t fulfill the on court expectations that got them in this institution to begin with. A head coach feels as if his $3.9 million base salary is in jeopardy based on your performance and you, my friend, are either out of a paid-for education or saddled to the end of the bench. What does the end of the bench mean to those who’ve basked in a career unfamiliar with such demeaning role and have had professional aspirations since the day they were born? A psychological blunder that may further narrow a player’s lens of interest off the court because realizing one might never achieve what he or she perceived as destiny is emotionally devastating (we’ll save the discussion of psychological consequence for later, but just let it be known that mental health more often than not goes neglected in the conversation of why these kids deserve stipends).  

There’s absolutely no beating around the bush: Collegiate Sportsis Professional Sports without the financial compensation. It’s a full time job with an equivalent sense of commitment. Sure, there’s study hall, there’s class, there’s emphasis placed on academics incentivized by the need to remain eligible often capable of preparing these kids for a life beyond sport, there undoubtedly exists that/those kid(s) encompassing the template of perfect human being who can double major in economics and physics while simultaneously managing the time constraints of a grueling Division I Athletic Schedule. Yet, not everyone is perfect let alone capable of being that well rounded. And from my experience with both the Men’s Basketball Program here at Miami and a plethora of former Division I athletes now in their early 30’s who sacrificed four years of their life under the roof of a multi-million dollar, tax exempt entity only to be rewarded with a menial work experience paying 50,000 a year, these guys more or less have no room to focus on anything but, in these circumstances, basketball. Without doubt the experience varies from institution to institution. ACC Basketball? One of what I would consider four or five conferences where near eight guys on a roster have a legitimate shot at and are fully invested in making money at the next level? In other words, these high flying, immensely skilled, emotionally invested individuals make millions to billions of dollars for others while the NCAA rejects a $2,000 stipend proposition to cover the gap between athletic scholarships and the true cost-of-attendance. $2,000. Why? Because the NCAA would rather distribute “about 96 percent” of its $800 plus million revenue “directly to the Division I membership or to support championships.” Better yet, “It should be noted that the NCAA's billion-dollar haul from (broadcasting contracts) does not get divided among the schools. It does (however) fully fund 89 championship tournaments for men's and women's sports in Division I, II and III. Yea, I guess there’s no worth in slightly sacrificing the percentage of “earned” revenue used to support championships that make the Division I experience oh so worth while in order to help fund a stipend worth approximately a smudge above $300,000 over 12 games for the 85 scholarship players. Makes complete sense.  

Back in October 2011, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors passed legislation that would have made it possible for college athletes to receive this small, additional $2,000 to cover the gap between athletic scholarships and the true cost-of-attendance, which includes tuition, room-and-board, books and other expenses.  After opposition of such legislation, the contemplated stipend was dismissed, tabled and now looks to be tabled indefinitely. But why? Well, for one, Title XI is the largest logistical hurdle of them all to implementing such policy; simply put, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen in less than five minutes. Then there’s concern of hiked tuition becoming unaffordable for those who do not fall within the mere 10% of athletic departments that actually turn a profit. But as the NCAA always and forever in dumbfounding fashion allows us to infer, the presumed central reason is one unsurprisingly rooted in self-interest. And that self-interest is a derivative of tax exemption status.

In an insightful piece written by Forbes Magazine’s own Darren Heitner, Heitner claims that it is not the undermining of a sports educational model’s guiding principles that is of most relevant concern. Rather, in deciphering the sub-context of American Athletic Conference’s new commissioner Mike Aresco’s statements, it is an undermining of “the coveted tax-exempt status of the institutions” that is the looming predicament between NCAA self-interest and stipend implementation; the inherent threat here is an  “establishment of an employor-employee relationship (a relationship that some academics believe has already been established and should be recognized as such).” In other words, the crux of Heitner’s piece is if this “employer-to-employee” relationship is established, amateurism is lost, hence, the NCAA no longer remains tax exempt under the Internal Revenue Code’s Section 501(c)(3), hence, millions of dollars are lost: “The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition.”

                    Using a 2000 word document to describe the convoluted nature of stipend implementation is beyond impossible; such sticky situation would require pages on pages. Yet, what I can do is leave you with one profound, all telling (in my opinion) question: When will those higher up have the decency to avoid excuse and accept that a $2,000 stipend in no capacity violates the principles of Amateurism? Employee to Employer should never exist in college. I agree. Yet, when men find themselves being paid millions to advise these young adults from the sideline, its inane to not, not think something or someone should give. 

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