ATHENS -- Georgia tackle John Theus knows exactly what he’ll do with the additional cash he’ll receive this fall.
“Put it in savings,” Theus said before cracking a smile. “I’ll try to save as much as I can. It will be nice to have a little more money in my pocket. But yeah, I plan to try and save as much as I can for post-football because I’m going to need it then.”
Thanks to an agreement between the Power Five conferences and the NCAA in January, schools can now provide a cost of attendance stipend to their athletes in addition to their scholarship.
College athletes will receive the difference from the total cost of attending an institution -- a number that includes tuition, books, housing and outside living expenses -- and the cost of the scholarship. The amount of cash athletes are to receive will vary from school to school since each institution’s cost of attendance figure is different. According to a study conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Georgia’s cost of attendance stipend figure is estimated to be $2,598, which would rank second to last in the SEC. Tennessee and Auburn are both expected to provide cost of attendance stipends of more than $5,500. Alabama, according to a report from CBSSports.com, will offer a cost of attendance stipend of $5,386, which is a sizable jump from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s estimated $2,892.
One line of thought is this can affect recruiting. But Georgia head coach Mark Richt seemed to note this stipend isn’t necessarily fixed. Also, Richt said he hasn’t noticed a change on the recruiting trail with this new rule either.
“We have certainly the cost of attendance numbers, but there’s also some things that can be done in a creative way that is well within the rules that can get us in pretty good shape on that front,” Richt said. “So we know Georgia can do just as well as anywhere in the country as far as taking care of our players, and we don’t think it’s going to have a negative effect at all.”
There does appear to be some confusion with how each institution calculates its number, considering there is a $4,266 difference from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s estimated highest stipend (Tennessee, $5,666) and the lowest (Boston College, $1,400).
“Obviously, we’d like to have a balanced sheet across the board, but at the same time, there’s a reason those are in place,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said. “I think it’s great for the student-athlete. I think it really gives them an opportunity. I’m happy to see it happen, and I’m glad to see that we’ve come to it that way. We’ll see. If you lose a guy over $1,000 here or there for his cost of attendance, maybe that’s part of it.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said his players should receive a stipend in the $4,200 range. While high compared to other schools, Spurrier acknowledged other programs could theoretically use that number against him.
“We’re not going to argue or cry about it,” Spurrier said. “If some schools can give a little bit more, so be it. Supposedly, the federal government regulates this. The chief financial officer at each school sets the number, and that’s just the way it is. Let’s go play ball.”
Added McElwain, “There’s nothing you can do. Those are the rules. Growing up, you got a set of rules, and you just played by them. I never really put that much thought to that part of it other than I’m excited that they’re getting something.”
Athletes, including Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones, LSU offensive lineman Vadal Alexander, Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs and Missouri cornerback Kenya Dennis, all said during SEC Media Days that they will save most of their check. Others mentioned they would stock up on groceries. Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams, who’s from Allen, Texas, said he’ll fly family members to his football games.
As a result of the influx of cash, Theus said Richt is setting up an education program to teach the Georgia football players how to handle the extra money coming in.
“As a freshman, if you start saving, you can have a large sum of money saved,” Theus said. “Some guys like to spend their money. Some guys have the things they like, watches or whatever it may be. They might to choose to spend it on that. But coach Richt is going to educate the guys and try to make them realize this is money they can save.”