DESTIN, Fla. — The cost of attendance boost to an athletic scholarship is about to become a reality and some coaches are uncomfortable with the new economic reality of college sports: Athletes will be able to get more at some schools than at others.
In the Southeastern Conference, Tennessee and Auburn will be giving their athletes about $5,500 more on top of a scholarship that pays for tuition, room and board, and books.
On the other end, schools such as Alabama, Texas A&M and Georgia will be giving their athletes about $3,000 less. Those numbers are determined by financial aid offices following federal guidelines, and individual students can petition a school for more money.
“The calculation of it has nothing to do with college athletics,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said Wednesday at the SEC spring meetings.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said he is concerned the variances create an advantage for some schools and could promote fraud.
“Even in the NFL they have a salary cap,” Saban said this week. “So this is an issue to me that is completely different than anything that we’ve had to deal with. Now, I’m all for the players getting more. I always have been. I’ve always promoted it. I’ve always been for it.
“I just think there are some unforeseen consequences of this that may affect the competitive balance that we’ve always worked very hard to keep relative to college football.”
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said some standardization in determining cost of attendance would be beneficial.
“There’s certain parts of cost of attendance that are the same at every school,” Alleva said. “So for example: Are you going to give a kid a laptop computer? If you’re going to give him or her a laptop, are you going to do it every year? Are you going to do it every other year? If we can define how many trips home we’re going to give a kid.
“I think the more we can narrow it down the better.”
Narrowing it down — or trying to cap the cost of attendance — could be problematic, though.
“I think that’s what has to be discussed before we decide to layer on certain guidelines or policies,” Mississippi athletic director Ross Bjork said. “I think we have to be careful in today’s world that we’re not setting ourselves up for the next round of legal issues.”
The cost of attendance stipend at Ole Miss will be $4,500, fourth-most in the SEC according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
At Mississippi State, the cost of attendance bump will be $5,126.
Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin does not see the stipend as being any more of an advantage in recruiting for the Bulldogs as newer facilities, bigger stadiums and larger support staffs would be for rivals such as Alabama or LSU.
“All of our campuses have differences,” Stricklin said. “Different strengths. Different challenges. We offer different experiences for prospective students, and student-athletes. We’re going to use all those in recruiting to stand out. This is just another part of it, I think.
“It’s a new concept and there are a lot of things that we do that we try to level the playing field on. This just happens to be one that I don’t think the circumstances around that allow that to happen.”
When cost of attendance rules were adopted by the Power Five conferences earlier this year, the SEC proposed an NCAA rule that would have required schools to report when and why a student-athlete was given a cost-of-attendance stipend above the predetermined school average.
The SEC will continue to push for a national transparency rule, but the idea of altering the way it is calculated or capping does not seem to be realistic.
“We are constrained by the law,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said.