SBJ/December 17 - 23, 2001/Opinion
Stipends for athletes, downfall for athletics
Published December 17, 2001
I thoroughly enjoyed the special report on college athletics in the Nov. 19 issue. Each writer had his or her own beliefs and very good points on issues and change. However, the articles that concerned me the most were on paying student athletes a stipend.
Paying student athletes a stipend is an issue I cannot support. Many student athletes receive a full scholarship for their higher education. This is extremely valuable compensation that the average student does not receive. In fact, many students take out loans and work so they can earn their degree. In many instances, these students continue to pay on their loans for 20 or 30 years after graduation.
If the issue is that a kid from San Diego cannot buy a coat or a student athlete cannot afford to take a girl to the movies, they can. Student athletes who come from economically disadvantaged households can receive up to $3,750 each year above their scholarship in the form of a Pell Grant. They can also qualify for the NCAA Special Assistance Fund, which helps provide clothing and services for student athletes who cannot afford these items. In a worst-case scenario, they too can take out a loan.
If we begin to pay stipends to athletes, I believe that we will begin to see the downfall of college athletics as we know it. The gap would grow wider between the haves and have-nots. Many institutions whose athletic departments' budgets are in the bottom half of their conference would suffer greatly. Further, many of the Division I-AA and I-AAA institutions could not afford these stipends.
Instead of focusing on stipends for student athletes, there are several major issues that affect us now and will impact the future of college athletics. Four areas that we need to focus on are:
1. Controlling the arms race with regard to facilities and salaries.
2. Balancing the commercialization of college athletics against the purity of college athletics.
3. Student athlete welfare and graduation rates.
4. Continuing the simplification (deregulation) of NCAA rules.
Paying a stipend should not be an issue that we spend too much time contemplating.
Howard Gauthier is director of athletics at Idaho State University.