Excuse my snooze as NIL debate takes over SEC Media Days | Toppmeyer
In 2015, Power Five conferences voted to expand coverage of an athletic scholarship to include the full cost of attendance. Previously, full athletic scholarships had covered tuition and fees, room and board, and books. Approving full cost of attendance allowed athletes to receive thousands more dollars each year in stipend form, intended to cover additional living expenses not previously covered by scholarships.
The stipend amount varied by school. In the 2016-17 athletic year, for example, cost of attendance stipends in the SEC ranged from $3,332 for an in-state athlete attending Kentucky to Texas A&M offering $6,294 to out-of-state scholarship athletes.
Some fear mongers alleged the varying school stipend amounts would be used as a recruiting chip. Others wondered whether college athletes could responsibly manage these newfound dollars.
“You (provide) a young man 18, 19, 20, 21 with a little bit of pocket change, with a lot of money to make bad decisions, things can go sideways in a New York minute,” then-Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said during SEC Media Days in 2015, adding that the stipends might increase athletes’ “dumb decisions” and that he was happy the money wouldn’t come out of his salary.
Cost of attendance dialogue dominated media days that year. Nearly every SEC coach fielded a question about the change, and numerous athletes were asked how they planned to spend their stipend.
Six years later, I can report that adding cost of attendance stipends to athletic scholarships did not foil college sports. And I’ve never had an athlete tell me they made their college choice based on which school could offer the biggest stipend.
I attribute Texas A&M’s football surge more to its hiring of Jimbo Fisher than its stipend amount.
When SEC Media Days begin Monday in Hoover, Alabama, we’ll once again hear plenty of conversation about a change that could enhance college athletes’ bank accounts, how this new landscape might affect recruiting and how athletes plan to spend this money.
Rather than cost of attendance, though, this year’s dialogue will center on the new name, image and likeness framework that allows athletes to profit off their fame.
Excuse me, while I doze off.
Why should anyone care how Auburn quarterback Bo Nix plans to spend the endorsement money he’ll earn from his deal with Milo’s? If he wants to invest it, great. If he wants to use it to light a maduro, well, it's his money to burn. And why should Nix divulge his financial plans to the press?
Look, there’s no denying that this change is a big deal for athletes and college sports.
It put an end to college amateurism by allowing athletes to cash in on third-party endorsements and sponsorships, while also opening other revenue streams for athletes, such as charging money for autographs, appearances or working camps.
I support the change. Schools are not paying salaries to college athletes. If businesses or private individuals think brokering deals with college athletes is a good use of their money, who is being harmed?
Thanks to the new rules, someone I know recently paid to have Illinois basketball player Andre Curbelo wish his son happy birthday via a Cameo video. Curbelo’s personalized birthday message was well received, and Curbelo earned enough to buy dinner and dessert off his appearance.
Sounds like a win-win to me.
I just don’t find four days of discussion about the change very interesting. I bet fans won’t, either.
By now, you’re not going to alter people’s opinions about this college sports evolution.
Either you think it’s high time for college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness (just like any other college student can), or you think athletes earning endorsement money will diminish college sports’ charm.
Either you think this change will incentivize athletes to mature, or you think these revenue opportunities will result in poor time management and divided locker rooms.
Either you think this change won’t result in more rampant cheating and that it encourages deals to move out of the shadows and into the light, or you think Warren Buffett will bankroll Nebraska’s football team by paying Huskers players tens of millions each year, as one reader predicted in an email to me.
Plus, like it or not, the new era is here.
Nothing an SEC coach or offensive lineman says about it in Hoover next week is likely to change anyone’s opinion about this new frontier.
Wake me up when the season arrives, when the spotlight will shift back to whether the starting quarterback needs to be benched.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.