SBD/July 24, 2014/Colleges

C-USA Schools Prepared To Offer Full Cost-Of-Attendance Scholarships

Conference USA schools are "prepared to pay their student-athletes a full cost-of-attendance beyond their athletic scholarship, following the lead of the Power Five conferences pushing for autonomy within the NCAA," according to Adam Sparks of the Murfreesboro DAILY NEWS JOURNAL. C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowksy yesterday at the conference's Media Day called the task part of "the most challenging time in college athletics." He said presidents at C-USA universities support the move to pay their student-athletes' full cost-of-attendance because it is "the right thing to do, and it does not obviously violate the principles of the collegiate model." Banowsky said that paying full cost-of-attendance "should cost each university around $500,000 per year -- a rough estimate based on 230 student-athletes being paid $2,000 to $2,500 each above their current scholarships." Middle Tennessee State AD Chris Massaro said that the Blue Raider Athletic Association and athletic department are "amid a restructure to focus more on fundraising in anticipation of the cost-of-attendance expense." Banowsky said that it is "too early to determine what model each C-USA university will adopt in paying full cost-of-attendance," but he added that it will "likely vary between schools." Banowsky: "Each institution is going to have to make a decision on allocating resources, so that's a TBD." Sparks notes the NCAA BOD will vote Aug. 7 whether to accept a proposal from the Power Five conferences for autonomy in decision-making. Banowsky said that C-USA "could follow suit by voting on a similar measure in January and begin paying student-athletes full cost-of-attendance by the start" of the '15-16 academic year (Murfreesboro DAILY NEWS JOURNAL, 7/24). Banowsky, who is in his 11th year as C-USA commissioner, said that the league is "officially stable after several years of realignment." In Mississippi, Jason Munz notes Tulane, Tulsa and East Carolina have "officially departed for the American Athletic Conference, while Western Kentucky's transition" from the Sun Belt to C-USA begins this season. UNC-Charlotte and Old Dominion "joined the league last year." Banowsky said, "Realignment was a very taxing and challenging thing for all of us, so it's nice to put all the pieces together and be in a position to move forward" (HATTIESBURG AMERICAN, 7/24). 

VIEW FROM THE MOUNTAINTOP: West Virginia AD Oliver Luck in a special on the school's official athletic website wrote Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who recently said schools may cut non-revenue sports, has "a unique viewpoint when it comes to Olympic sports on campus since he also serves on" the USOC BOD. It would "not be a stretch to say that if the collegiate rug got pulled out from under the feet of our aspiring Olympic athletes, we would not have the same level of success that we have come to expect." Luck: "Is this just 'crying wolf' or is there a legitimate reason for supporters of the Olympic sports to have some angst about the future?" Many schools have "dropped sports over the past few decades." Because of the move to the Big 12, WVU is "in a better financial position in terms of our ability to compete with the top schools in the nation." WVU officials "do not have any intention to drop Olympic sports." But "no university is completely out of the woods on this issue." Luck: "Rest assured that college sports fans will continue to hear for years to come about the potential of Olympic sports being dropped" (WVUSPORTS.com, 7/22). 

ONE STEP AT A TIME: In N.Y., Marc Tracy in a front-page piece writes D-I schools have "begun rolling back some of the most contentious policies regarding amateurism." Indiana Univ. last month announced a bill of rights for athletes, "promising free tuition for life rather than the customary one-year scholarship guarantee." USC said that it would "guarantee four-year scholarships." University presidents in the Big Ten and Pac-12 "wrote public letters advocating guaranteed four-year scholarships, improved medical coverage and more financial support for athletes." But in the "most significant move yet, the NCAA decided last week not to ask athletes to sign a statement authorizing the NCAA and other groups to use their names and likenesses for promotional purposes." These shifts are "happening at a time of growing unrest in college sports over what critics say is exploitation of athletes." The changes "may leave athletes better protected and more empowered -- and the universities less vulnerable to future lawsuits -- no matter how the courts rule on the lawsuits regarding the status of student-athletes" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/24).
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