Basketball: League approves basketball stipend

Butler basketball players have seen several changes to their respective programs in recent years.

They can now add a change in their scholarships to the list.

Beginning in the fall of 2012, men and women participating in the sport will receive a $2,000 stipend each academic year to help cover the de facto price of being a college student.

“I’m really excited,” junior forward Becca Bornhorst said. “How could you not be?”

The benefit was conferred by a unanimous vote of Horizon League athletic directors last week.

On Oct. 27, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved the option for conferences to add up to $2,000 each a year for athletic scholarships.

The stipends are the first major change to college athletic scholarships in nearly 40 years.

Photo by Maria Porter

“Great idea,” sophomore forward Khyle Marshall said. “You’re not working, not making any money, but you still need money for food. Having that extra money in our pocket will be a benefit.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert told the Houston Economic Club earlier this month that the stipends reconcile the difference between full rides and what it really costs students to go to college.

Emmert said the stipends do not pay students for athletic competition, adding that “pay for play” compensation has no place in college sports.

Butler’s estimated cost-of-attendance gap is $2,050 per athlete, according to a study by the National College Players Association.  The COA gap is the average amount of expenses incurred by a student-athlete beyond what a full scholarship covers.

“Gas and food are the main two [expenses],” Bornhorst said.

Among Division I schools, the lowest COA gap is $200 for athletes at South Carolina Upstate. Arkansas-Little Rock has the highest shortfall at $10,962.  Butler’s gap is about $900 less than the national average.

Butler will have to pay for the new allowance. For 13 male players and 15 female players, this amounts to a new annual expense of $56,000.

“I don’t think we know exactly [how the stipends will be funded],” Associate Athletic Director Beth Goetz said. “We’ll find a way within our given budget.”

The Horizon League offered its schools the choice to provide stipends for athletes in other sports, though under federal Title IX law, the stipends must be distributed proportionately to the ratio of male and female student-athletes.

“That’s not something we’ve talked about doing,” Goetz said of providing stipends to other athletes.

Athletic Director Barry Collier, who could not be reached for comment, told ESPN in July, when the proposal was still being debated, that Butler did not want to apply COA stipends to some athletes and not others.

“For us, it would have to be across the board,” Collier said at the time.  “That’s just part of our commitment as a university, that we wouldn’t do for one sport what we couldn’t do for all of them.”

But the finalized NCAA rules say stipends may only be given to athletes on full scholarship.

Beyond volleyball, which has 12 full rides, Butler has only a “handful” of other athletes on full scholarship, Goetz said.

From 1956 to 1972, the NCAA permitted a $15 monthly stipend during the academic year.

Photo by Maria Porter

In the decades since, scholarship players have been limited to reimbursement for tuition, room and board, education-related fees and books.  The NCAA has not covered the full cost of attendance since the statistic was legally recognized by Congress in 1986.

Many have argued that students deserve additional rewards because of the financial windfall college sports has become.

Men’s basketball, in particular, brings big profit to the NCAA and needed funds to individual colleges.

According to NCAA documents, $13.8 million was returned to the Horizon League in April based on its schools’ degree of tournament success from 2005-2010.

The NCAA paid out $180.5 million overall.

Television contracts add to this profit, as CBS and Turner Sports will pay the NCAA $10.8 billion for the rights to broadcast March Madness until 2024.

Stipends are a way to give some dollars to student-athletes and will likely help in recruiting.

“If you’re going to compete on the national level,” Goetz said, “it becomes a competitive advantage to those able to offer it.”

It’s up to players how to spend these stipends. Marshall said he already has an idea.

“I’ve always wanted an iPad,” he said.

Bornhorst said the cash will make her more independent.

“It’s not having to call my parents every two weeks,” she said, “and saying, ‘Mom, can you put money in my account so I can get groceries?’”

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