Student Well-Being

NCAA: Full-Cost, Multiyear Athletic Scholarships Possible

By Bryan Toporek — August 10, 2011 2 min read
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Heading into this week’s presidents retreat, NCAA President Mark Emmert wasn’t shy about expressing his opinion that fundamental changes to the NCAA model were necessary. Quickly.

Turns out that Emmert wasn’t kidding around.

On Tuesday, the group of roughly 50 presidents and chancellors discussed, in no short order: the inflation of coaches’ salaries and what can be done about it (according to Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz, who was live-tweeting from the retreat), full-cost/cost-of-living athletic scholarships, guaranteed multiyear athletic scholarships, cost containment in Division I athletics, and increasing athletic equity among Division I schools.

In sum, the presidents focused on ways to save money while having the flexibility to allocate resources for student-athletes.

“We spent a lot of time discussing how we manage our resources—recognizing these are very challenging times,” said Emmert in a press conference after Tuesday’s meetings. “The presidents want to make sure they are using their dollars as efficiently as they can.”

What’s most interesting, in terms of proposals that could affect high school student-athletes, were the ideas regarding full-cost, multiyear scholarships.

In the post-meeting presser on Tuesday, Emmert suggested that the presidents expressed a groundswell of support for an opt-in policy regarding both full-cost and multiyear scholarships. Currently, athletic scholarships are only one-year contracts between student-athletes and their schools, and must be renewed on an annual basis. Athletic scholarships also currently leave student-athletes paying an average of $3,000 out-of-pocket annually to cover transportation, food, clothing, and other living expenses, according to studies.

The NCAA wouldn’t mandate that each conference adopt either full-cost or multiyear athletic scholarships; however, the conferences that do could gain a competitive edge in recruiting (a concern that Emmert and the NCAA readily acknowledge).

Remember, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany broached the subject of full-cost athletic scholarships back in May, and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive proposed guaranteed multiyear scholarships at his conference’s media days last month. While neither of those gentlemen were in attendance at Tuesday’s retreat, that’s not to say their proposals didn’t previously gain some attention.

One idea that’s dead-on-arrival as long as Emmert remains in charge of the NCAA: a pay-for-play system. Emmert said on Tuesday, “There is absolutely consensus we will never move to pay-for-play.”

Emmert also noted that the presidents would be addressing potential reforms to the NCAA rulebook during Wednesday’s meetings, saying, “I don’t think there’s anyone that disagrees that the NCAA rulebook is too big and too complex [currently].”

The presidents will also discuss how to promote further academic success in student-athletes. (One rumored proposal: Slive’s idea of raising the minimum qualifying GPA for incoming freshmen student-athletes from 2.0 to 2.5.) For updates on Wednesday’s meetings, search hashtag #NCAAPrez on Twitter.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.