Oct. 27, 2011
Olympic Sports to Suffer Under
By Sean Ryan
Twitter - @collbaseball
NCAA on Thursday announced the approval of some impactful
changes to the college sports landscape.
Questions abound for the “Olympic” sports,
including college baseball.
It’s hard to fault the NCAA’s impressive
recommendations on academics, which include a higher Academic
Progress Rate (APR) – from 900 to 930 – and a higher minimum
grade-point average (GPA) for incoming freshmen and transfers.
The message is simple – if you want the privilege to play
Division I college athletics, hit the books.
Where the debate should continue is over the
$2,000 stipend some student-athletes will be eligible to
Regarding paying student-athletes in addition to
their scholarships – USA Today’s Andy Gardiner quoting
NCAA President Mark Emmert on the $2,000 stipends: “This
certainly is not play for pay.” – I’ve always been among the
group that has been opposition.
It’s not because it’s not a good idea; it’s
because it’s impossible to treat all student-athletes the same.
Right or wrong, I’m in the camp that believes that while
football and men’s basketball players bring universities and the
NCAA loads of money, a practically free college education helps
make up for that. The majority of Division I student-athletes
are not on full scholarships – an entire baseball team splits
11.7 scholarships and full scholarships, even for major
programs, are few and far between – will go pro in something
other than the sports they play as the NCAA reminds us in
That said, what’s gone unnoticed by most today,
is who would be eligible for the $2,000 stipends. Like all the
conference realignment, this clearly is a move made for football
Direct from the NCAA: Student-athletes
who receive full athletics scholarships or get other school
financial aid will have the opportunity to receive additional
athletics aid (or other institutional aid, including use of the
Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund) up to the full cost of
attendance or $2,000, whichever is less. The figure will be
adjusted according to the consumer price index, so the
presidents will not need to approve new figures when the
cost-of-living changes. The Board resolved to not revisit the
$2,000 amount for three years. The new rule makes the additional
aid available to student-athletes in head-count sports (football
and basketball) and those in equivalency sports who reach the
value of a full scholarship.
The key here is “full athletics scholarships.”
Full athletics scholarships barely exist in
college baseball and other Olympic sports. So, college baseball
players, who work just as many hours out of the classroom and
can ill afford to get part-time jobs, won’t be eligible for the
$2,000 stipend. Tennis? Fault. Swimming? False start. Soccer?
Offsides. For those rare athletes in the Olympic sports who are
full rides, it’s possible they would be eligible for the stipend
while their teammates would not.
The perception of the football and basketball
players getting everything only will grow in the minds of the
“other” student-athletes on campus. Other than that, changes to
college baseball and the other sports should be minimal.
Paying college athletes has always been a
Pandora’s box issue. The NCAA has tipped the lid, which will be
debated by talking heads across the country. But the Olympic
student-athletes shouldn’t go unnoticed in the discussion. We
can only hope that this might lead the NCAA to raise the number
of scholarships for college baseball (and other sports) and
assisting the schools in getting to those levels.