The Big Ten’s Discussion to Pay Players

Written May 20th, 2011 by Joe Dexter

OSU AD Gene Smith has firm beliefs when it comes to paying athletes.

In what has been an already interesting off-season for Big Ten Football fans, it looks like the league is ready to add another fold to the talking point docket.

During the Big Ten Conference in Chicago this week, commissioner Jim Delaney and the members of the conference discussed whether scholarship players should receive extra money to help players cover everyday needs.

The money, which would be anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 dollars per student, would be an aide in everyday needs such as transportation, clothing, and food.

Delaney made it clear that these discussions were just the starting point for the NCAA, but he believes something has to be done to bridge the gap.

How do we get back more toward the collegiate model and a regulatory system that is based more on student-athlete welfare than it is on a level playing field, where everything is about a cost issue and whether or not everybody can afford to do everything everybody else can do?

Officials guesstimate that it would cost a university such as Ohio State nearly 1 million dollars to fund all scholarship athletes on campus. But with millions of dollars coming in yearly under the Big Ten Network, now seems like the perfect time to give back to the players.

Many would argue though that it’s just a way for the conference to think out loud about ways to protect against mishaps such as this summer’s fiasco. Of course another way to grind the sandpaper on a subject that has already seen way too many layers.

ESPN’s Jalen Rose stated on the show “1st and 10″ on Thursday that the extra selling point in recruiting plays a major part in the discussion, but also said that part of it has to do with protecting the good guys.

“One of the favorite sons just got a slap on the wrist,” said Rose. “When the good guys get in trouble, then it’s time to change the rules. ‘Maybe we need to reexamine this’. ‘We’re not doing something right’.”

Though it might of been Tressel’s violations that triggered the conversation, it still remains far removed from what officials have said needs to be done for these athletes.

Even Rose himself spoke in his documentary on the Fab 5 on how the corporation was stealing money from athletes.

And though it will be impossible for some conferences to comparably offer the same amount of pay, it’s a start.

Some, such as Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith would argue that those that can’t offer players money are in the same boat as their competitors. Smith, who was an AD at Eastern Michigan firmly believes that teams from the MAC and other smaller conferences should not be focused on what higher level schools are offering players. The main agenda should be beating the likes in your conference, who also won’t have a financial incentive to offer students.

A topic that has been discussed throughout the NCAA since late March, Smith has been very vocal. At the Big Ten Meetings, Smith shared his thoughts on conferences that don’t have the luxury of a TV network that generates monstrous revenue.

The reality is that schools can afford it more than you realize. Just look at some of the television contracts that have come out recently.

The reality is, if there’s cost of attendance and you can’t afford it, don’t do it.

Beyond speaking on what schools and conferences should be paying athletes, Smith has made his opinion known on the two sports that he believes deserves the money.


“The hardest thing for our association to do is treat those kids differently,” Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith says. “But you know what? Their lives are different. They’re different than the field hockey athlete. They’re different than the swimmer. They’re under different pressures.”

It will be interesting to see what role Ohio State and the Big Ten play in the upcoming exploration of this initiative. If it is implemented would it be for every scholarship athlete on campus? Or would it focus on the money making athletes? The truth of the matter is officials, fans, and even players can talk all they want about the possibility of paying players to some extent.

But until it’s executed, it’s just a topic blowing in the wind.

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