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Oklahoma football: Bob Stoops has the right idea, but his delivery needs work

The Oklahoma football coach went all Marie Antoinette the other day, but his primary point is valid: A college scholarship is no small reward. Stoops does say he's all for giving players stipends.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 11, 2013

NORMAN — Bob Stoops went all Marie Antoinette to The Sporting News the other day.

The 21st-century version of Let Them Eat Cake: “I tell my guys all the time,” Stoops said, “you're not the first one to spend a hungry Sunday without any money.”

Stoops made the case that college athletes shouldn't be paid, and he's on solid ground. But man, the bedside manner needs a little work. A coach making $4.5 million a year talking about hungry Sundays is a textbook case on how to start a revolution. Just ask old Marie.

It's more than a little insensitive for a college football coach who just moved into an Oklahoma version of Versailles, a château hard by Interstate 35, to tell his ballplayers to toughen up and scrape by.

Even if they and everyone else needs to hear it.

It's a great message. Manage your money. Bide your time. Take care of business. College is not where you strike it rich. Not where you achieve your goals. College is the gateway to those dreams.

Strong advice. Ought to be part of orientation for every athlete every August.

Just don't trout out the Hungry Sunday line. At least not for public consumption.

I know what Stoops meant. He was being literal. Sunday nights are the traditional munchie times around campuses. The cafeterias are closed; pizza delivery and taco runs are in high gear on Sunday nights. Many a college kid gets hungry on Sunday night and stays that way without a 10-dollar bill lying around.

“That's part of life,” Stoops said.

He knows from experience. Stoops painted houses in the summer to have spending money, not just when he was an Iowa safety but an Iowa graduate assistant and volunteer coach, too. Not all castle-dwellers were born in one.

And back in those days, Stoops would occasionally come up a dollar short. “I'd have a hungry Sunday often,” Stoops said.

Stoops wanted to clarify a couple of things. In his Sporting News interview, Stoops said, the subject of stipends didn't come up. Stoops is all for it.

The stipend is a trending issue within NCAA ranks. Changing the athletic scholarship to include the cost of living, not just the cost of attendance (room, board, tuition, books).

The NCAA definitely should implement the stipend, primarily because it's standard procedure for a lot of scholarships. For example, OU's hugely successful National Merit program includes stipends above and beyond the standard full scholarship.

We've long said student-athletes should be treated the same as students who aren't athletes. The stipend doesn't compromise that tenet.

Stoops also points out that athletes from low-income backgrounds qualify for Pell grants to supplement their scholarship, and the university helps in the application process. So players who need money have access to money.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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