NCAA president opposed to Spurrier's pay-per-game idea

But "supportive of exploring” giving athletes more money

semerson@macon.comJune 1, 2011 

DESTIN, Fla. – Steve Spurrier had a novel idea about paying players, but it’s a non-starter, according to the president of the NCAA.

Spurrier, the South Carolina head football coach, proposed giving football players $300 each for home games. Spurrier made the proposal at the SEC coaches’ meeting, and got six fellow coaches to sign on.

“They could give it to their parents for travel, lodging, meals. Maybe they could take their girlfriend out Sunday night, or Saturday night, and so forth,” Spurrier said. “And a bunch of us coaches felt so strongly about it that we would be willing to pay 70 of them $300 bucks a game. That’s only $21,000 a game.”

But Mark Emmert, the NCAA president who was attending the meetings, was opposed to Spurrier’s proposal.

Emmert said he was “very supportive of exploring” giving athletes more money to support themselves while they’re on scholarship. But he said he wasn’t “enamored with the vehicle,” as concerned Spurrier’s proposal.

“I think paying players by game doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” said Emmert, a former president of LSU and the University of Washington. “Are you going to pay them for every game they go to, are you going to pay them for women’s volleyball, and why $300, why not $600. If you’re just paying them for a game why not $3,000?

“Where do you set that number, and why do you set that number? That’s converting student-athletes into employees, and I’m adamantly opposed to that, and I think that would be the death of intercollegiate athletics.”

Spurrier’s proposal was met with equal skepticism by SEC commissioner Mike Slive. He called it a “nice gesture,” but doubted it would get anywhere.

Even Spurrier admitted he doubted it would pass.

“But as coaches in the SEC, we make all the money, as do universities through television, and we need to get more to our players,” Spurrier said. “That was just something I think we need to get out there.”

Slive supports paying athletes what’s being called the “full cost of attendance.” That includes not only tuition and room and board, but books, travel, food and other expenses.

Emmert said he also supports looking into the full-cost initiative. He referred to “incidental expenses,” which could be as much as $2,000 above regular tuition at public schools, and $4,000 above at private schools.

“There’s a good active discussion going on about well should we change our rules to allow, not mandate, but allow conferences or schools, who want to go to a higher number, to go there,” Emmert said. “It’s very controversial, because some schools can afford it and some can’t. The cost of doing that for all of your student-athletes would add up pretty fast.”

Emmert said too many schools with low resources wouldn’t be able to pay the athletes and keep up with the bigger schools. But the president did make clear he wants the issue to be debated.

“We do need to have a good conversation about it to decide where we want to go,” Emmert said.

“There’s two critical issues. One is that I’m very supportive of exploring the notion of providing student-athletes, not just football players, but student-athletes across the board, with support for something called for-cost attendance. … I’m adamantly opposed with paying student-athletes to play a game. So while coach Spurrier and I haven’t talked about it, so I don’t know the genesis of his concern. But if he’s concerned about supporting students about the full cost of attendance, then I’m supportive of his concern. But I’m not enamored with the vehicle.

But Emmert said all incidental expenses, which add up to full cost of attendance,

“For most public universities, that number’s about $2,000 more than tuition, room and board, books, supplies. Private schools is about $4,000 more, or it’s in that ballpark. And so schools with low resources would say, 'Well we can’t do it.' One of the responses would be of course if it’s not mandatory … answer back, is it gives them a competitive advantage."

Emmert said it he couldn’t imagine anything happening in less than a year.

Slive answered “I don’t think so” when asked if it would ever pass.

“I think the gesture of one of thinking of a student-athletes’s welfare,” Slive said, adding that the coaches did make clear they support the full-cost plan.

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