The vote was not unanimous, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Roger Brown said, but the Southern Conference presidents and chancellors have voted against providing a “full-cost-of-attendance” stipend to its student-athletes.
It is up to each conference to decide if it will participate in the NCAA’s recently-approved proposal, which allows schools to give full-scholarship athletes up to $2,000 to help meet costs that aren’t covered by room and board, tuition and books.
The SoCon school “CEOs” voted on the measure earlier this month at a league meeting at Davidson College and the majority were against it.
“A lot of the CEOs feared that this was one step in the direction of pay-for-play,” Brown said.
Those that voted to provide the stipend, Brown said, “took the very practical view that if other universities are going to do this, we don’t have any choice but to try to remain competitive.”
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved the measure on Oct. 27, and right away SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said there were plenty of questions about the legislation. That hasn’t changed, he said Saturday.
“When we met with our [CEOs], there were more questions than answers,” he said. “The group basically said, we don’t want to do anything at this point. Let’s hold tight and let’s reconsider this at the appropriate time in the future.”
That time could be in the spring, when schools will have gone through a recruiting cycle, namely in football and basketball. If programs have lost numerous prospects to programs that are going to provide the $2,000, Brown said, that could affect how the SoCon membership feels about the issue.
“Those who lost on the vote,” Brown said, “that’s what they hope, that seeing it in practice will cause the schools to reconsider their positions.”
Approving the stipend is one thing. Paying for it is another. Most mid-major athletic departments, such as UTC, aren’t exactly flush with cash as it is.
If the SoCon approved the full $2,000 stipend for men’s and women’s basketball only, that would be an additional $56,000 for the fully-funded programs that have 13 men’s scholarships and 15 women’s.
“I understand the coaches need to be competitive,” Brown said, “but it really is going to cost some money to implement the COA [cost-of-attendance].”
Brown also said he doesn’t like the idea of providing a stipend for some sports and not others.
“You really want to see a time where if you’re going to do it, you do it for everybody,” he said.
Iamarino was among the mid-major conference commissioners on a conference call with the NCAA on Friday. There was an overwhelming sentiment among the commissioners, he said, that “we need a delay of a year on these reforms.”
The stipend is scheduled to go into effect on Aug. 1.
“Before that happens, I really believe something’s going to come down from the NCAA,” Iamarino said. “I think [NCAA president] Mark Emmert is going to get the message that a good part of the membership is not happy with the way this came about, the process, the many unanswered questions.
“There’s more confusion than there is certainty on anything right now.”
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...