For Texas Southern, the argument about whether to pay players is more or less a moot point. The athletic department doesn’t make a profit, nor does it expect to. That’s not a goal.
A historically black college located in Houston, Texas Southern originally got its university status in 1947. (At that time, the University of Texas in Austin still did not admit African-American students.) Texas Southern’s overriding mission has been trying to help a segment of the population that has been traditionally denied equal access to higher education.
“We try to serve those who are historically underserved,” athletics director Charles McClelland said. “When you look at what we’ve done with a smaller amount of resources, colleges like us do the country a big service. In many cases, we are taking students who are less prepared for college, getting them adjusted and then graduated to make a significant difference in their communities.
“I can see those tangible results. So when some schools are talking about paying student-athletes beyond what they get for a scholarship … at our level, the scholarship itself is a huge opportunity for young people to make a better life for themselves.”
Schools such as Texas Southern typically play pay-guarantee games in football and men’s basketball against larger schools. The scores often aren’t pretty. But the financial gain from those contests goes a long way toward balancing the budget for Texas Southern and other schools in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
“We’re already at a huge disadvantage to larger schools,” McClelland said. “We’re one of the better-funded programs in our league. But if you compare us to the University of Texas [at Austin] we have a difficult time recruiting for the top-student athletes. If Texas would also be paying student-athletes, it gives us almost no chance to get those players.
“Still, at every level, college athletics is a 'business.' We probably do need to come up with adjustments to rules. Some of these institutions are making millions and millions based on these student-athletes’ amateur status, and they want to further compensate them. I think at our level, the end product is a student who may not have had a chance to go to many other institutions, but was able to get a degree here in part through participation in sport.”
McClelland, who has served on the NCAA’s Leadership Council, fully understands the various issues that all sizes of schools must deal with. Texas Southern has faced troubles of its own -- and continues to. In 2008, the NCAA placed the school on probation for infractions involving softball and men’s and women’s tennis. As part of self-imposed and NCAA sanctions, the school had to suspend the men’s and women’s tennis programs from all competition for a few semesters, and the softball team had to forfeit victories.
And the NCAA this past season has investigated Texas Southern for possible violations in football and men’s basketball. Football coach Johnnie Cole was fired this spring, and the school awaits the NCAA's verdict. McClelland has acknowledged the school expects at least some major violations in football. He said the school was randomly chosen for NCAA review.
What a full athletic scholarship at Texas Southern University entails: $18,600 (tuition, fees, books, room and board.) (All numbers are for 2010-11.)
Cost of attendance: For resident on campus, $24,929, off campus: $25,429. For nonresident on campus: $34,229, off campus: $34,728.
Student fees: $10 a semester per credit hour, with cap at 15 hours.
Amount athletics receives from student fees: $2,240,000