During the NCAA convention in mid-January, members of the Power 5 conferences, which include the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12, voted 79-1 in support of full cost of attendance. Boston College garnered national attention by casting the lone vote against the legislation.
Previously, full athletic scholarships covered an athlete’s tuition as well as room and board; however, these scholarships will now include other expenses such as books and supplies, personal expenses, and transportation. These stipends will differ from institution to institution and have been estimated at $2,000 to $4,000 per year.
In an interview with ESPN, Boston College athletic director Brad Bates listed several reasons for his opposition. He argued that increasing the budgets of already struggling athletic programs could lead to the elimination of non-revenue sports. In addition, Bates believes that the disparity between schools’ costs of attendance will give certain schools advantages in recruiting.
Furthermore, Bates defended his stance stating, “We’re trying to be true to what our institutional culture is and what we believe should be how we approach intercollegiate athletics.” To me, it seems as though Bates favors treating student-athletes as amateurs, placing a stronger emphasis on the student aspect of student-athlete.
However, this viewpoint appears to be hypocritical to say the least: Division I athletes, especially those in the Power 5 conferences, are not treated like typical students. Instead, much more is expected from athletes than from non-athletes. Former Stanford football player Richard Sherman elaborated on the expectations of a student-athlete a few weeks ago during a press conference.
In his speech, Sherman claimed, “[Colleges] pay for your room and board, they pay for your education, but to their knowledge, you’re there to play football. You’re not on scholarship for school and it sounds crazy when a student-athlete says that, but those are the things coaches tell them every day: ‘You’re not on scholarship for school.’”
Whether people want to accept it or not, Sherman is absolutely right. The majority of student-athletes in the Power 5 conferences do not receive scholarships due to their academic prowess; they are granted scholarships because of their athletic abilities. In fact, many student-athletes use their talents to earn admission to schools that they simply could never dream of getting into had they not played a sport.
As Sherman mentioned, many are quick to point out that institutions provide their athletes with free tuition and room and board; however, how are they expected to come up with the money needed for other daily expenses? Unlike other students, student-athletes do not have time to get jobs; their schedules are too demanding. Thankfully, members of the Power 5 conferences were able to recognize this, resulting in the near unanimous passing of full cost of attendance.
It saddens me that Boston College was the sole opponent of this legislation. Bates made a valid point in claiming that the new stipends could result in the elimination of non-revenue sports; however, they are “non-revenue” sports after all, so perhaps they should be treated differently than those that provide the majority of an athletic department’s revenue.
The bottom line is that Boston College, along with other institutions, needs to be consistent in how it treats student-athletes. Either compensate them for the extensive time and effort they put into their respective sports, treating them as the employees they are, or reduce their responsibilities, giving them more time to focus on the student aspect of student-athlete. Fortunately, Boston College will now cover student-athletes full cost of attendance, despite voting against the notion.
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