Speaking at a forum on the business of college sports, athletic director Steve Patterson announced that the University of Texas would start paying athletes about $US10,000 a year if the NCAA loses a case on compensating athletes.
The compensation would be on top of traditional scholarships and would cost the school about $US6 million annually. This move would be the fallout from recent decisions that opened the door for athletes to be paid.
Of the money, $US5,000 would be paid to the students so that the school can use their likeness. In a recent case brought forth by former college basketball player Ed O’Bannon, a judge ruled that the NCAA cannot stop athletes from profiting off of their likeness and ruled that athletes cannot be compensated less than $US5,000 if their likeness is used.
The NCAA is currently appealing that decision.
The rest of the money paid to the athletes would help the students pay for costs not covered by scholarships. This became possible when the NCAA recently granted autonomy to the so-called “power conferences” (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC). Part of that autonomy is the ability to give student-athletes a cost-of-attendance stipend, estimated to be worth $US2,000-5,000.
There are number of huge implications here that will change sports forever.
Texas would pay all athletes.
This is significant because one of the biggest arguments against paying football and men’s basketball players, the two sports that actually turn a profit, was that it would most likely be a Title IX violation.
Under Title IX, schools that receive federal funding must provide equal opportunities for all athletes. The University of Texas would avoid a potential fight and just pay all the athletes whether they are in a revenue-generating sport or not.
Other schools with less money may not choose to take the same route, instead opting to pay just athletes from revenue-generating sports. But if that happens, it will almost certainly end up in the courts to decide if it is a Title IX violation.
The rich get richer.
This decision means less money for schools to spend. But it would also strengthen the richest programs as the number of schools that can afford to pay 600 athletes about $US10,000 each is going to be few and far between even in the power conferences.
No school makes more money off of college sports than Texas as the Longhorns’ athletic department brought in $US165.7 million in 2013. An extra $US6 million for athletes represents just 3.6% of the department’s budget and Patterson said the school would have no problem paying it.
But at a school like Washington State University, $US6 million would represent 12.7% of their $US47.2 million budget.
Big Boy schools like Texas already have a recruiting advantage over schools like Washington State. The Longhorns would then be able to add the lure of $US40,000 over four years and that is not just for the football players. That recruiting advantage would exist for all the sports from football to tennis, men and women.
Nothing is set in stone yet. But if the NCAA loses the O’Bannon case, athletes are going to start getting paid and college sports will have changed forever.
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