NCAA's Emmert still pushing for athlete stipends

Associated Press + More

By RACHEL COHEN, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — NCAA President Mark Emmert is still determined to provide college athletes with $2,000 for expenses not covered by scholarships.

Convincing schools to go along with that might be as much about changing perceptions as changing the proposal.

In a surprise move last January, the Division I Board of Directors delayed implementing the stipends in the face of criticism from many colleges. The plan is still on hold, with a working group creating options that address the membership's concerns, but Emmert reiterated Wednesday his commitment to putting it into effect.

The stipends would help cover the full cost of attending college, which scholarships don't meet, providing money for expenses beyond tuition, room and board, books and fees.

The Board of Directors approved the rule in October 2011, but by late December, 160 schools had signed onto override legislation. That meant the change was suspended, and the board reconsidered it at the January meeting.

On Wednesday, Emmert sounded a bit chastened by the backlash. Asked about the plan being stayed, he replied, "'Stayed' is the polite word; it kind of got crushed."

"We didn't anticipate the reaction it provoked," Emmert said at the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.

Schools worried about how the stipends would affect Title IX compliance and whether they'd be able to afford them. Emmert said one possibility was making them need-based — available to students who can't afford the various expenses that come with attending colleges, but less expensive for schools.

But the proposals can be tweaked only so much. The biggest key to implementing the stipends may be changing schools' mindsets.

"This is a branding issue," Emmert acknowledged to The Associated Press.

That can include public pressure. Emmert chided athletic programs that make major decisions guided by efforts to generate more revenue, then complain they can't afford a stipend. At the forum, which is sponsored by IMG and hosted by SportsBusiness Daily/Global/Journal, Emmert said of conference realignment: "When people say it's all about the money, that's not inaccurate."

He later took that argument to the stipends cause: "When the world believes it's all a money grab, how can you say we can stick with the same scholarship model as 40 years ago?"

Money is also pouring in from TV deals. The new college football playoff contract will be worth about $470 million a year. That money, however, goes directly to conferences, not to the NCAA. It also benefits the most the schools that were already the wealthiest to begin with.

But the current men's basketball tournament agreement — worth an average of more than $770 million per year — is with the NCAA. The governing body could use some of that money to pay for stipends itself, though that would mean providing fewer funds to conferences. So the stipends would dent schools' budgets one way or another.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.