“Right now, I’d want the cost of attendance to be the same across the board.”

For Mark Richt, as a member of the newly hatched NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee, that header indicates what would be his first order of business.  As someone duking it out with his peers on the recruiting trail, his frustration is understandable.

When addressing fans later, Richt said: “I’m not too thrilled about that some schools are going to be able than others. At least it looks that way right this moment.”

The problem is, of course, the NCAA knows it can’t be involved in the price-fixing business.  Even Mark Emmert’s had a two-by-four whomped up against his head enough to realize that now.

Cost of attendance remains a hot-button topic among universities, particularly in the idea that such a measure, if adopted, would widen the gap between resource-heavy athletic departments and their smaller counterparts.

“Some schools are going to have to decide, do we want to allow full COA in our conference,” Emmert said. “And then individual schools will have to decide, are we going to go that high?”

That’s right, kids.  A conference could choose a limit to impose on its members.  A school can choose a limit on its own.  It’s just a universal ceiling that’s a no-no.

You know who sounds like he understands that?  The incoming SEC commissioner:

“We’re going to be attentive of to the legal outcomes,” said Sankey, addressing concern over potential recruiting advantages that could come as a result of COA. “But at the extent that we can help with implementation at the conference level, we’ll do that as appropriate.

“Those recruiting decisions have always been made on a lot of issues and people can cite why [an athlete] chose a particular school or coach, facilities, geography, television exposure. You mentioned another component that certainly could be a part of that conversation.”

But COA impacts far more than student athletes. The number, which is determined by each university’s financial aid officers and then published to school websites, is often used to help determine how much aid students can receive to attend school.

“We understood the realities that there are cost-of-attendance differentials on our campuses,” Sankey said. “That’s the way the Higher Education Act is formed and our institutions have had that flexibility over a number of years.

“Moving forward, we obviously have the requirement that we’re going to comply with litigation outcomes, as we understand those outcomes; make sure we frame properly the implementation that is consistent with the Higher Education Act.”

There are two things to pull from there.  One, Sankey’s already talked to the lawyers.  Two, there are tradeoffs to jacking up a school’s COA.  With regard to the latter, if you decide to be more generous with your student-athletes, it doesn’t end there.  The generosity has to extend to all of your students who receive aid.  That’s why you’re not suddenly going to see COA numbers in the stratosphere; it would bankrupt a school to go that route.

So keep in mind a couple of things if you’re someone pulling your hair out about the COA like Richt is.  Any redress is going to have to come at the conference level, which means that’s the level we’ll eventually watch the game of Keeping Up With The Joneses played at.  And ultimately, Mark Emmert (!) has the correct take on things.

“Will that change the balance between the haves and have-nots? I think it won’t,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday when he was asked about cost of attendance during the Associated Press Sports Editors’ annual meetings with league commissioners. “I think the answer is, it won’t change it any more than it already has been changed.”

True ‘dat.  Emmert as the voice of reason ought to tell you how much the O’Bannon ruling has resonated at this point.  So don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s not going to drive the COA train now.


Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

16 responses to ““Right now, I’d want the cost of attendance to be the same across the board.”

  1. DawgPhan

    Could the SEC create their own formula and then apply that formula to each school and set the limit for each school and then each school determine if they want to go to that limit or not. Seems like the fair way to make sure that the formula is being evaluated evenly across the board, which I dont think it currently is.

    Some schools are going to cost more. That seems realistic. Right now it just seems like some folks are exploiting how the formula gets used.


    • The courts see conferences in competition with each other, so, IMO, yes, the SEC could establish a cap for its members without running afoul of antitrust considerations.

      The problem, of course, will come when the Big Ten comes in at $1000 a head more. 😉 But at least nobody will get sued over it.


      • DawgPhan

        agreed. But it probably costs more to go to school in NJ or PA, than it does in Miss.

        The funny thing would be this driving conferences into collective bargaining with players.


        • Cousin Eddie

          I was hoping that the conference would look at the cost of all schools, in that conference, do the math and come up with a COA for the conference. They can then adjust the average COA based on the Cost of Living Calculator that way the Conference could adjust the amount based on the location. The coaches could say we all have the same COA just it takes more money to live in Athens then Starkville but the actual moneys are the same. Is that to logical or am I trying to level the playing field to much?


  2. paul

    COA is primarily going to affect the students. They’re the ones borrowing the money to pay for school. There is already a great deal of consternation surrounding the fact that today’s students are graduating with staggering amounts of debt. Lenders use the COA figures to determine how much a student can borrow. Jack those numbers up and two things happen: it appears that it costs a lot more money to attend classes at your institution, making it harder to recruit students and students are more likely to borrow and spend a lot more money, simply because they can. Then they graduate in an even deeper hole. This leads to increased criticism of the schools and banks because God forbid we criticize students for making bad financial decisions and it leaves them unable to buy cars and homes upon graduation, which is bad for business.


  3. I’m no lawyer but why call it a COA stipend anyway? Why can’t it be referred to as “payment for playing”.

    And, why can there not be a ceiling for the “COA” if it was made voluntary? I see no reason why it needs to be mandatory. Those schools that really want the recruits will end up paying while the others won’t.



    The get a freaking scholarship, now they want more…..this is going to get out of hand…..


  5. On a Macro level, the Power 5 conferences will level out. The rest of them will be like the ranking of the 50 states based on economic well being, second tier, little change.


  6. Cojones

    This is a problem with no good answer, but we knew that when COA was approved, didn’t we?


  7. Marc

    Looks like that Richt quote in the ABH story dropped some words. Here it is: “I’m not too thrilled about the fact that some schools are going to be able to give more than others. At least it looks that way right this moment.”


  8. Take the cost of an on-campus Chick Fil A chicken sandwhich, multiply by 1000x = COA for each school.


  9. Bulldog Joe

    The SEC will not do anything to put its teams at a competitive disadvantage.

    The SEC will leave that decision to the individual schools.


  10. AusDawg85

    Please Senator…The schools will not pay for the COA’s. It comes from passing the cost on to us consumers (via the broadcast deals, advertising, etc.) and reducing expenses (Pep band will travel less, cheaper locker room towels, etc.). These things will skyrocket if not capped by some outside entity.