Commentary

Coaches want NCAA to pitch in

Originally Published: July 18, 2011
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Among all the coaches ESPN.com surveyed about a pay-for-play scenario, none wanted to see players get a salary.

[+] EnlargeLeonard Hamilton
Bob Donnan/US PresswireLeonard Hamilton doesn't see how schools could fairly pay all athletes.

Some mentioned a stipend.

Others tossed out an idea of something more tangible, something akin to travel for parents for official campus visits or plane tickets for the NCAA tournament.

But the consensus was that no coach can see how every student-athlete in every sport could be compensated in some manner.

"I've always thought it's virtually impossible to have a pay-for-play system that would not include every sport," Florida State basketball coach Leonard Hamilton said. "How can you justify not including track or tennis or golf? How could you consider a fair and equitable system, and not include every sport? Everyone always only mentions basketball and football. But that would almost be unconstitutional."

Hamilton referenced Title IX, and the need to be fair and equitable to women's sports. He said he couldn't see how paying just men's revenue sports wouldn't be challenged legally. Hamilton was more concerned about possible cutbacks at the federal level to grants that lower-income students receive.

"The people driving this conversation as I see it are not people on the ground," Hamilton said. "They're not intimately involved in the conversation."

The easy answer to this issue is to have the "power six" conferences separate and form their own organization, offer up some sort of stipend to the athletes at those 70-plus schools, and be done.

"But no one is saying they should be paid," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "It should just be living expenses, laundry, movie money. The only way to come up with the money may be to have four super conferences -- one in the East, North, South and West."

Calipari said a playoff in football with a select group of schools would certainly help pay the costs of a stipend. But he also knows that is unlikely to occur.

Florida coach Billy Donovan would like to see something much more tangible occur.

"I think if more parents were allowed to go on recruiting campus visits, there would be fewer unofficial visits," Donovan said.

Donovan's point is that if you want to send your son to school, you're likely going to want to see the school. But a high number of players don't go on official campus visits with a parent due to cost.

"To me, I'd rather see real value being added. Fly the parents in, or during the NCAA tournament, help the parents go watch the games," Donovan said. "You find out on Selection Sunday where you're playing, and then you only have a few days to get a ticket? How can people afford that?"

Donovan said something needs to be done, especially in light of the money the NCAA generates.

[+] EnlargeJim Baron
Chris Chambers/Getty ImagesJim Baron would like to see his players receive a small cost-of-living stipend each semester.

"But I think it would be a problem for a number of schools that don't have the money to offer up $200 a month to their athletes," Donovan said. "It would be interesting to see if the six major conferences broke off to decide rules with a new governing body. Something needs to be done."

But to blanket all Division I schools under one umbrella simply isn't possible.

"At our level, I don't know how it would work," New Hampshire coach Bill Herrion said. "We're going through budget difficulties at our school. I don't know if it's feasible at a place like UNH. I think there's a need for spending money for these guys during the year for sure. They're not able to work. But in my situation, at the level I'm at now, I don't know if it's feasible. It's not something I'm thinking about. We're going through drastic cuts now. Unless the NCAA comes up with something across the board, it's a heckuva lot of money to pass out."

And what would happen if the power six schools got a stipend and the lower-level schools did not?

"Your kids would feel like second-class citizens," Herrion said.

Rhode Island assistant coach Preston Murphy, who played on URI's Elite Eight team in 1998, said players who come from a difficult situation or single-parent home or don't have any contact with their parents need some sort of assistance.

"They don't have anything," Murphy said. "Give those guys a lifeline so they don't have to accept things that they shouldn't."

Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron said he has had to come into each school he has coached from St. Francis (Pa.) to St. Bonaventure to URI and put in infrastructure from academic advisers to academic programs. He said he'd like to see the NCAA ensure that every institution has things like that in place.

And as for a stipend?

"Five-hundred [dollars] a semester," Baron said. "How much money do they have at the NCAA? They can do it. They ask us about academics. But what are they spending it on? All I'm saying is that it has to be legitimized. Just start someplace, just start somewhere. How much money can they put in the bank? How big is their bank -- the bank of NCAA? Oh, and give coaches better tickets at the Final Four. That's another thing. Our seats are way up."

Baron was joking on the last point -- sort of. But his overall thesis is a consistent theme among coaches polled. A nominal stipend to help with spending money makes sense per semester. But every sport must be included. And no one seems to think that could be possible with 300-plus Division I schools, hundreds of sports and thousands of athletes all deserving some sort of aid.

"I just don't know how you do it," Donovan said.

And that's the problem. No one does.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com