KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On one hand, it seems only fair: Why not increase the value of athletic scholarships to include the total cost of attendance at a school?
Shouldn't the NCAA and its member schools share with the athletes at least a tiny bit more of the billions that flow in every year from ticket sales, bowl revenues and lavish TV deals?
On the other hand, it would be an administrative nightmare. And it would deal a blow to the financial solar plexus of small-budget schools already straining to keep up with the Michigans, Alabamas, Notre Dames and Ohio States.
Increasing the value of scholarships is not a new idea. But it's a hot topic of conversation at this week's Big 12 Conference meetings and delegates, to say the least, are sharply divided.
The thing is, nobody can figure out how it could be done.
“Cost of attendance comes with all sorts of complications,” said Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. “The cost of attendance will vary at certain institutions. If it's $5,000 here and $2,000 there, how does that get into recruiting?”
Many believe the extra money should go strictly to football and men's basketball players since they're the only ones on just about every campus who actually bring in more money than they cost. But would women's coaches stand for that? Or others in traditional nonrevenue sports?
In that regard, there would be significant legal hurdles to get past.
“If you start thinking in terms of, `Well, these are the kids that bring in all the money and we need to give them more money,' it's hard for me to think that makes sense,” said Oklahoma faculty representative Connie Dillon. “How are you saying that's not pay for play?”
Philosophically, Dillon may be on the opposite side of the issue from many others at big-time schools.
“We're for it,” said Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds. “It's a positive thing and I think doing something for student-athletes is a positive thing.
“The reality of being able to do it, it's hard. Maybe 10 percent of athletic budgets are in the black. So if you go cost of living, that's another, let's say million dollars, that's got to come from somewhere. Probably got to come from the academic side. It's not a good time to take money from the academic side for athletes. The reality of making it happen, I think, is pretty hard to figure.”
Dodds does not see a majority of schools going for the idea.
“I think we'd vote for something to help kids,” he said. “A lot of people would. But I think most wouldn't because they don't have the resources. And you don't want to take money out of the academic side.”
Beebe said no one was thinking of raising the scholarship value only for football and men's basketball players.
“There was a recognition that you can't just do it in the revenue-producing sports without doing it at least with the same number of female student-athletes,” he said.
Dodds, who estimates it would cost the Longhorns about $1 million to take every scholarship to full cost of attendance, scoffs at the idea that it would hold down the sort of scandals which cost Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel his job this week.
“Absolutely not. If somebody's going to do that, they're going to do that,” he said.
The idea became a hot topic recently after the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences raised the possibility.
“The Big Ten would be for it because they've got the Big Ten Network. They've got dollars,” Dodds said. “But probably 80 percent of institutions would have to go to the academic side to get the money. You have to vote something like this in, and I don't see how you'd get the votes.”