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December 23, 2003

Supplemental payment to cover cost-of-attendance?

Should student-athletes be paid over and above scholarships?

The NCAA says no. "We have a model for paying players," says Myles Brand. "It's called professional sports." Brand, however, has supported the call for additional scholarship money for the athletes on whom the NCAA's $453 million budget largely rests. He would bump the value of the grants by $2000 or more, the amount they are shy of the full cost of college attendance. The extra money would go for such incidentals as laundry, phone service and travel home.

Two of every five Division I-A athletics departments reported an operating profit in 2001. But without state and school subsidies, only 6% of the 117 made money.

Where would those schools find an extra $2000 per athlete? Money probably would go to athletes in all sports, not just the revenue-producing Big Two of football and men's basketball. Ohio State, for example, hands out 436 scholarships in 35 varsity men's and women's sports.

The NCAA is trying to loosen its rules to allow athletes to close the cost-of-attendance gap with other available aid. One proposal would allow athletes to supplement scholarships with academic or other non-athletics aid up to the full cost of college or the value of their scholarship plus a need-based Pell Grant, whichever is greater. A full scholarship athlete who also receives a full $4050 Pell Grant actually could get aid exceeding cost of attendance.

About 10.5% ($48 million) is allocated for three athlete-benefit funds. Another 4.5% ($20 million) is earmarked for "student-athlete welfare and youth programs and services," including $10 million for catastrophic insurance.

(excerpted from USA TODAY, 12-23-03)