Man, the logic chopping on display in Destin yesterday over the emerging disparity in COA stipends is hilarious. Start with the Sabanator:
“They have a salary cap in the NFL, probably one in every pro sport, to create parity and competitive balance,” Saban said. “There should be a cap on the cost of attendance. It’s important we all have the same criteria and we all have transparency in how it is calculated.
“Some people are promoting it (a school’s COA) in recruiting. We have not done that. It’s in the university’s interest to keep the cost of attendance low. That should be the first priority from an institutional standpoint, not really what’s better from an athletic standpoint.”
Skip past the nonsense of the head coach of Alabama being piously concerned about promoting parity in college athletics. And even give Saban credit for noting what the priority ought to be for a school setting its COA figure. He’s still saying that college football should emulate professional sports in determining how student-athletes are compensated for their services. If I’m Jeffrey Kessler, his name’s going on my next witness list.
Ultimately, the problem here is that the schools have seized upon the COA stipend as a fig leaf to side step the NCAA’s amateurism rules. The straightforward approach would simply have been to use autonomy as the lever to allow the P5 conferences to pay student-athletes, period. That would have allowed each conference to set a single number as a cap for its members. But, of course, that wasn’t thinkable; the schools and conferences simply aren’t ready to concede that. So instead you’ve got Mike Slive giving mealy-mouthed explanations about what’s been shaped.
“For all these years, the NCAA passed legislation with the premise being a level playing field, which in effect means it’s for the institutions,” Slive said. “But when we put the vision together for the 21st century, we made student-athletes the primary focus.
“We moved from level playing field to student athletes. By definition when you do that, there are issues that aren’t as comfortable if you’re grounded into the level playing field.
“It does create recruiting issues if you have different levels of cost of attendance. It needs to be worked through. We’re going to end up with differentials we’re all going to have to live with.”
Hey, it’s the vision thing! I’m inspired.
Here’s the point Slive is either missing, or glossing over. True, accurately calculated COA is a playing field leveler. Every school paying the correct amount means that a student-athlete’s finances from year-to-year will net the same in the end, regardless of where he/she chooses to attend.
What’s got everyone agitated isn’t that prospect. It’s the suspicion that certain schools are bending the numbers to pay players enough to gain an advantage over schools that aren’t. The irony of the free market at work in this environment shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice.
So Mark Richt’s got a point when he says,
“If everybody would disclose how they go about their business, I think it might be helpful to get things on a more equal playing field,” Richt said.
“There’s a lot of numbers out there that no one knows how they got to those numbers. It’d be nice to know how everybody gets to that number. If everybody’s using the same grid, then maybe it’d be a little bit closer.”
But as long as you’re using COA, as it’s currently defined, transparency is only going to get you so far – and that’s assuming you can even get everyone in the conference on the same page about disclosing their formulas. The numbers are always going to be different because things don’t cost the same amount everywhere you go. And somehow, I don’t think that will ever satisfy the Nick Sabans of the world.
In the end, it’s the OBC with the only sensible grasp of things as they stand.
Spurrier changed his tune with cost-of-attendance, saying that equality doesn’t happen in many aspects of recruiting, and it probably shouldn’t with finances.
“If one school can give $5,000 a year and another $4,000, hell, that’s just the way it is,” Spurrier said.
“Who knows the reason a young man picks a school, but we would hope four or five hundred dollars wouldn’t be a reason a kid picks a school.”