It is an issue that has sparked many debates and an issue that hardly anyone is on the fence about. For the most part, you are either for it or against it.
This issue is whether or not student-athletes should be paid a stipend to play their respective sport.
Last fall, legislation was initially approved in October to allow schools to offer student compensation up to $2,000 on top of a scholarship. When more than 100 schools requested an override vote, the measure was put into a state of limbo and the legislation was put on hold, per ESPN.com.
With the announcement of the new playoff system in Division 1 football, the topic has resurfaced and there is plenty of big-name support behind it. Texas Longhorns coach Mack Brown is one of those supporters.
In my opinion, with the amount of money the playoff will generate, I hope we can revisit the student-athlete stipend.
—Mack Brown (@UT_MackBrown) June 27, 2012
It will be a very lucrative event and those young people are the ones that make it all possible.
—Mack Brown (@UT_MackBrown) June 27, 2012
Brown is not incorrect in how vital the student-athlete is to the game and the revenue created from it. However, what Brown fails to see is how a stipend on top of a scholarship can ultimately hurt collegiate athletics. In some extreme cases, the legislation could even destroy it.
The arguments against paying athletes last year are still the same today. One of the biggest concerns is simply that not all schools would be able to afford providing a stipend to their students. Budget crunches are of even greater concern when considering who can and cannot afford to pay. Already facing difficult financial times, the expectation to provide scholarships and pay a stipend would put many schools in tough situations.
Is paying student-athletes the right move?
If the legislation were to pass as it stands now, the inability for some schools to pay would put them at a recruiting disadvantage. As recruits begin to weigh their options, one school's ability to offer a $2,000 stipend may just seal the deal. This would be detrimental for many unable to counter that offer.
While Brown's intentions are good, he is unfortunately looking at this situation from a very narrow viewpoint. After all, the Texas Longhorns would have no problem providing the stipend to student-athletes. According to New York Magazine, "A big-time program like the University of Texas football team can generate more than $90 million a year in revenues, and still have nearly $70 million left after expenses." So Texas would be just fine paying their athletes, correct?
At first glance, it seems like the Longhorns would be in a good position to do so with that additional $70 million. Football and men's basketball make for a large surplus each year. However, that surplus isn't just sitting unused. What is often forgotten is that surpluses are used to fund sports that do not generate that kind of money. Does this mean the athletes who do not create a surplus should also not be paid? Do only the big-ticket college athletes deserve the stipend? And what of the tiny little matter of Title IX?
Simply providing a $2,000 stipend to student-athletes is not going to provide the results supporters like Brown are expecting. Scholarships provide student-athletes with the opportunity to get a college education while playing the sport they love. If an athlete is demanding additional money on top of the opportunity they have already received, is that the type of athlete worth rewarding?
Regardless of anything else, there should be no rush to spend the half-billion dollars the new playoff system is expected to produce (in TV rights alone) each year before it is even made. After all, there is still a lot that will need to be worked out before the stipend issue should be revisited, as Texas Tech's Kirby Hocutt pointed out.
"I think there's still a lot of work to be vetting out, and how the revenue is going to be distributed is the first step in that," Hocutt told the AP, via the Austin American-Statesman.
This will be a topic revisited many times, but Mack Brown needs to put the breaks on. The current focus should be on making the new playoff system a success, not whether or not student-athletes should be paid. After all, many programs are already concerned with their stability going forward in the new system, sans stipend.
So let's focus on all schools—big or small—and their ability to thrive. That is ultimately what needs to be revisited.