Stipend, or no stipend

Thursday, May 3, 2001 at 1:00am

You believe student-athletes should be paid a stipend. You believe football and basketball players deserve a piece of the financial pie. You believe thousands of college athletes are destitute, have no spending money, can�t pay for a date or a movie or a meal.

Give �em $100 a month, you say. Maybe even $200 per month.

Well, did you know student-athletes in need already get that � and more.

At the University of Tennessee, 100 scholarship athletes will receive $271,227 in Pell grant money this year. That�s an average of $2,712 per year. Based on nine months of school, that�s over $300 per month.

Twenty-seven walk-on athletes will receive another $54,000.

In total, 127 student-athletes will get $325,227. That�s not a bad stipend.

Of the 84 scholarship football players, 46 receive some Pell grant money. Of the 13 men�s basketball players, 10 get Pell grant funds. Of the 15 women�s basketball players, eight are on Pell grant aid. The maximum one can receive from a Pell grant is $3,300 per year, but that is expected to increase to $3,750 next year.

If you propose to give a stipend to just those athletes in revenue-producing sports, then you�re limiting the recipients to football and men�s basketball. And that won�t fly in the face of gender equity.

Another concern: About 70 percent of Division 1-A schools lose money. While Tennessee and Florida could afford to pay athletes a stipend, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt could not.

As stipend-supporters should know, student-athletes can work during the school year and make up to $2,000. They also can work during the summer and make several thousand more.

And let�s not forget the needy student fund. Tennessee has 113 athletes � 11 walk-ons � who will receive a combined total of $52,178 from the needy student fund. The average amount issued is about $500.

The fund pays for clothing and other essential expenses, expendable academic course supplies, medical and dental costs not covered by another insurance program and family emergencies.

Then, of course, there are bowl trips. One Tennessee football player recently told me he made over $1,000 on the Vols� trip to the Fiesta Bowl. He cashed in the ticket allotment to fly from Knoxville to Phoenix, found a super saver flight, and pocketed the difference.

Football players are also allowed to receive bowl gifts of up to $300 in value. The Vols got DVD players a couple of years ago. If you wanted cash instead, you could have sold your DVD for about $300.

If you�re a student-athlete and you need money, there are ways to get money legally. No stipend. No payment for performance.

It�s done on a need base.

It�s equitable. It�s fair. And it�s the perfect argument against those who want to pay student-athletes a stipend.

One of the ridiculous definitions of gender equity is to have an equal number of male and female participants in athletics.

Thus, the head-count includes walk-ons.

Two points:

One, the count should involve only scholarship athletes. The current system limits the number of walk-ons in football and other male sports, which is ludicrous.

Secondly, at Tennessee, not all of the women�s scholarship money is being used. Of the 117 scholarships available, 102 were used. In rowing, for example, UT allots 20 scholarships but used only 12.25, even though 25 rowers are on scholarship. UT either needs more rowers are needs to give more scholarship money to the rowers.

The men are allotted 141.2 full scholarships; 139.48 are used.

While the men have 24 more full scholarships than the women, the men have 231 on scholarship while the women have 161. The men have 51 in track off a 12.6 allotment. The women have 29 in track off an 18 allotment.

The men and women have a right to divvy up the scholarship money as they see fit, but don�t penalize the men for spreading the wealth, and don�t penalize the men for attracting more walk-ons than the women. That would be discrimination.

My proposal, if a federal judge would ever consider it: Take football�s 85 scholarships out of the equation (because there is no female sport that is the equivalent) and have an equal number of scholarships for the men and women in corresponding sports. Each would get eight for tennis, six for golf, 14 for swimming, etc. The men would get 12 for baseball and the women 12 for softball.

That�s fair, but when it comes to gender equity, the federal courts, unfortunately, don�t consider fairness.

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