The $2,000 full-cost stipend for athletes is not the only point of contention between the haves and have-nots in the NCAA. But it appears it has become the tipping point that will trigger reform and restructuring in college athletics.
NCAA president Mark Emmert, in an exclusive interview with the Indianapolis Star, made this point clear as he noted that he has already alerted essential Division I personnel that change is coming. From the Indy Star:
Within the past week, Emmert sent a letter to all D-I presidents, athletic directors, commissioners, faculty athletic representatives and senior woman administrators asking them to save the dates of Jan. 16 and 17 for “an important milestone in which your participation is crucial.” The meeting will be held at the same time as the NCAA’s annual convention in San Diego.
In the letter, Emmert called the “first-time Division I Governance Dialogue” a “critical meeting” that will cover “virtually every aspect of how Division I operates.”
“There’s a need to recognize there are Division I schools with $5 million athletic budgets and $155 million athletic budgets, and trying to find a model that fits all of them is the enormous challenge right now,” Emmert said.
Change is coming, and it is not just the stipend. The NCAA has long pushed to hold everyone to the lowest common denominator. It operated on the ideal that equity was obtained through limiting the resources of the haves so they could not race away from the have-nots.
As times change and ideals shift, the stipend has become the focal point of contention. A large portion of schools in Division I, including many within the FBS ranks, simply can't afford to dole out money to athletes. Budgets are stretched thin, and thus, these schools vote to block the positive impact that money would give to athletes at other schools.
Yet, the stipend is not all. The big schools are also looking at the student services, the recruiting techniques and coaching staffs that they are not allowed to have or utilize because schools that they only compete with in theory do not want the gap to widen.
The gap is already real. It is also wide. Emmert knows it. Every Big Five commissioner knows it. The teams on the outside looking in are merely fighting blindly under the guise that having the same area code as Alabama means you live in the same neighborhood.
A $2,000 stipend is not the end game. Jim Delany, and his lifetime graduation policy, and the other commissioners have made that point quite clear. This is a start for them. This is the spark that ignites the true push. This is the point of contention that cracks the surface before the teams that can't afford to run with the Big Five fall through the ice.
The full-cost payout is a start, but not nearly enough to satisfy the rumblings of the commissioners who control the largest interests in collegiate athletics.