UTC helps get NCAA stipend policy suspended

UTC helps get NCAA stipend policy suspended

December 16th, 2011 by John Frierson in Sports - College

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was one of at least 125 Division I schools that participated in an override challenge to the NCAA's legislation, passed in October, that allows member institutions to award stipends of up to $2,000 to student-athletes.

A total of 125 votes was needed by Dec. 26 to suspend the legislation, and the NCAA announced Thursday afternoon at the number had been reached.

"We'd like to see this topic revisited, more than anything," UTC athletic director Rick Hart said.

The Division I board of directors will re-examine the legislation when it meets in January. It will rescind the legislation, modify it or choose to go ahead with it as is. Should the board opt to proceed with it, the legislation would go up for a vote by the Division I membership. A five-eighths majority (62.5 percent) of votes would be needed for the measure to pass.

The NCAA left it up to each conference to decide whether to participate in the stipend, and the Southern Conference presidents and chancellors voted in November not to implement it.

"We're philosophically opposed to the idea of automatically creating the cost-of-attendance stipend for full-scholarship athletes without any regard for their own financial needs," SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said, "without any regard for what they may already be getting in the way of Pell grants."

Pell grants are exempt from the legislation, so a student at a participating school could get a full scholarship plus Pell money and an additional $2,000.

From the beginning, the idea of a stipend has been divisive for a variety of reasons. It favors major-conference schools with big budgets. Also, only athletes on full scholarship would be eligible, which would leave out teams in equivalency sports -- in which scholarships can be broken up -- such as baseball, softball and football in the Football Championship Subdivision.

"And a great many of them probably could use the assistance more than the kids who are getting the full ride," Iamarino said.

Iamarino said the override is the only way that schools not in the major conferences can make their voices heard regarding an issue that he said should not have been addressed in the first place.

"I don't think this is a vote against academic reform or doing what's right for student-athletes," he said. "I think it is a vote against kind of greasing the skids to get this through quickly, in reaction to what I personally think was a public relations need to put a stake in the ground [following the numerous college football scandals].

"The people that I talk to in my league and the other commissioners at mid-majors, we say the same thing: This hasn't been a groundswell; this hasn't been a pressing issue."

The legislation was passed in late October, not long after it was introduced and shortly before the early signing period for basketball. That left administrators with little time to fully evaluate its impact before conferences voted on whether to participate.

By suspending the legislation, Hart said, a more measured analysis could take place.

"Let's just make sure we're really doing what we think we're supposed to be doing here," he said. "And then give us some time to implement it so we don't create a ripple effect and issues or problems in other areas that are the result of hastily trying to put something together for competitive purposes."

One problem with suspending it is that participating schools already have signed athletes to letters-of-intent with the understanding that the stipend would be available. David Berst, the Division I vice president of governance, told the AP Wednesday that about 1,000 players signed in November.

Even though the legislation was suspended, the players who signed and are expecting the $2,000 still will get it.

"We would honor the agreements that have taken place," Berst told the AP.

Hart said the push for the override might feature a lot of "lesser-resourced schools," but it's not solely a resource issue. He said there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what the NCAA is trying to achieve and the best way to go about doing it.