Of all the debates in college sports this offseason, cost of attendance has reached acceptance more quickly than most. This is interesting, because the proposal is far from a slam dunk. Is it a good thing to give college athletes more realistic financial accommodations? Absolutely. Is it good for the competitive equity in college sports? Hardly. Small schools who can't afford an extra $2,000 are bound to suffer; BCS conferences appear bound to flourish.
I laid out some of these concerns a few weeks ago, and they remain pressing. NCAA president Mark Emmert is no doubt aware of these issues, but he's moving ahead with cost of attendance anyway. According to the Associated Press, the rule change -- which must still be finalized and presented to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors -- appears to be little more than a formality:
"This week, I'll be asking the board to support a proposal to allow conferences -- not mandate anyone, but allow conferences, not individual institutions -- to increase the value of an athletic grant in aid to more closely approach the full cost of attendance," Emmert said.
"We are going to create a model that would allow -- probably ... up to $2,000 in addition to tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies."
Again, it's a good idea, but one that could have some negative consequences. But it's also worth asking -- as ESPN's Jay Bilas did via Twitter today -- whether $2,000 is anything more than a half measure. If you break that down into 12 months, a student-athlete gets an extra $166.67 per month. That's a smartphone bill and a few hoagies. (Or, if you're like me, two new video games and some downloadable content.) It's not the kind of sum that is going to make accepting illicit benefits prohibitive -- or at least any more prohibitive than the current rules already are.
Still, it is something. At the very least, it's a positive step in the right direction for an organization that has spent much of the past year on the defensive. (Realignment hasn't helped.) When taken together with the proposed recruiting changes, in the battle for public perception, it seems the finally beginning to play some offense.