Division I athletics: just one notch under possibly going semi-professional or professional. Getting to this point in an athlete’s life, it may be the dawning of a new day: expensive cars, a new wardrobe, “bling bling” and the celebrity scene. But this lifestyle may not simply start by getting drafted into a pro-sport, it may have already began “behind closed doors” during the college years.
According to USA Today, the National Collegiate Athletic Association averages more than half a billion dollars a year in revenue. That does not even include the payouts from the 28 football bowl games, which exceed $184 million and go to each of the conferences.
With these figures, some athletes of Division I sports pose the question, “Why don’t we see a cut of the revenue?”
These student-athletes see their peers walking around campus with their “number” branded on a jersey and hanging on racks in their college bookstores ready to be purchased.
The athletes obviously know their coaches are pulling in $1 million salaries, as well as their alma mater taking big bucks from corporate sponsors, but none of this cash is flowing to those winning the games.
Vince Carter, an Oklahoma football team player, said in a USA Today interview, “Sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair. I’m at the No. 1 football school in the country right now, and I’m struggling to get groceries every month.”
Natalie Capuano, a varsity women’s soccer player at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “I don’t think D-1 athletes should get paychecks, although it would be nice.” She wasn’t able to respond if she was on a full-ride for athletics or academics because of Ivy League rules.
Even though Capuano isn’t receiving a paycheck, she doesn’t have to fork out much money for expenses during the season either.
“Our coaches pay for all of our meals and the hotel. We don’t pay for anything unless it’s a personal purchase and the coaches basically handle the team money on away trips.” Her team does not receive any other stipends during the season.
Arvydas Lidzius, a men’s basketball player at St. Joseph’s University, said, “We only get $20 to $30 a day for food for away games and during winter break when the cafeteria is closed, but that is all.”
Unlike Capuano and Lidzius, Kelly Rowland, a varsity soccer player at Florida State University, does receive stipends. When the team is at school during the preseason, they are given roughly $20 a day for meals until school starts for regular students.
Other than that, during the season, more was given depending on the place that was eaten at for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“We usually get a limit between $15 and $20. On some trips we have so much free time that our coaches may give us money to go see a movie or things like that,” Rowland said.
This is when another question comes into play. If these athletes receive roughly $20 a day for meals plus other money to go to leisure activities, what happens if they don’t eat a meal or decide not to go to the movies? The money is then pocketed.
One of the biggest controversies in the NCAA involved the Fab Five teammates from the University of Michigan men’s basketball team. The Fab Five included Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.
This controversy all started when Webber laughed and claimed he was frustrated that he couldn’t afford a Big Mac. The media stepped in and whined about the unfairness of the NCAA not paying its athletes.
Jason Whitlock, a Page 2 columnist for ESPN, said, “We’re part of the problem. We, the media, can blame Webber and the Fab Five for sticking their hands out and accepting what was given to them, but that’s pretty much what we told them to do.”
After all was said and done and some of the Fab Five entered the National Basketball Association draft, it was exposed 10 years later that Webber took money from former college booster, Ed Martin. Martin later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money.
Webber brought in $280,000 in illicit loans while in high school and college, according to the USA Today and the indictment says Webber, his father and his aunt conspired to conceal the cash, checks, clothing, jewelry and other benefits provided to the player and his family by Martin from 1988 to 1993, according to sportsillustrated.cnn.com.
Not only do athletes receive somewhat small stipends from their coaches during the season, but there is also the Student-Athlete Fund, which was established in 2003.
This is available to all athletes, regardless of financial need and whether they have exhausted eligibility or no longer compete for medical reasons.
The money from this fund can be used for such personal and educational expenses as traveling home, computers and other schools supplies, clothing, medical expenses for spouses and dependents, summer school, degree-completion programs and professional development, according to USAToday.com.
Whitlock said, “Trust me on this, you give a bunch of teenage, wannabe professional athletes a stipend and a significant portion of that money will be going directly to the local ‘pharmacist’ for steroids and marijuana, another good chunk will get guzzled down a beer bong and the rest will be a down payment on a platinum necklace, just like the one Lil Wayne wore in his last video.”
NCAA President Myles Brand said in a USA Today interview, “The NCAA historically has been against pay for play. I couldn’t agree more with that position. If you start paying student-athletes [other than assisting them through financial aid], you essentially ruin the integrity of the college game.”