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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 06 2012

Kolpack: Paying student-athletes could get messy

Fargo - It was last year when NCAA president Mark Emmert endorsed a proposal that would pay student-athletes $2,000 more beyond the cost of an education. In essence, the NCAA would allow what it once busted its own members for doing: dispersing flat-out cash.

The motion passed and will be used on a limited basis by a few major schools this season. But it’s also getting a major review and may not withstand the second-guessing legislative scrutiny, said NDSU men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips.

Initially, I had visions of enormous fraud. If there was a check for $2,000 in your file on financial aid pickup day, who’s to say there won’t be another one at the bottom of your locker? There are thousands of athletes on scholarship across the country, which makes for a lot of accounting.

These kids are already being paid handsomely in terms of a scholarship. A full ride at North Dakota State for five years, for example, amounts to more than $75,000.

Need more? Get a job.

I had three at one time for at least a couple of years in college, and this is where I’m warming to Emmert’s pay-the-athletes philosophy. I had three jobs because I had the time to do them.

You do not in athletics anymore, especially at the Division I level. In football, you have the regular season, winter workouts, spring football and summer workouts. There’s also this thing called school.

Phillips said his players have about 20 hours a week available to work during the summer.

“During the season, it’s about impossible,” he said.

About the only time Bison football players have time for a job is in the summer – after morning weightlifting and before late afternoon running. And most do find some type of job between those hours.

But there are also limited options for two-month jobs, so you’re left doing stuff like working for a company that is seeking petitions. This week, eight NDSU players were charged with voter fraud, a summer job that was apparently not performed very well.

Even if the NCAA decided to pay athletes five years ago, that may have still happened. But the point is that athletes already have a 12-month, full-time job they can’t get out of: their sport. They have to pay rent. They have to eat.

There are a lot of adults who are making a lot of money off of young adults who have limited time for a job across the country.

Whenever an NCAA president comes out in favor of anything, I get suspicious. But the reality of giving athletes a stipend is becoming more complex than Emmert probably once thought.

Most schools couldn’t afford to pay every athlete. If you select certain sports, which ones? If there are 110 football players, how many female athletes figure in the equation?

Phillips said he has mixed feelings on Emmert’s idea.

“Philosophically, I’m in favor, but I have yet to see a model that works for everybody,” he said. “A college education is a pretty good deal as it is. I don’t know how you would enforce it fairly with equity in mind.”


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

Kolpack is the host of the WDAY Golf Show Saturdays from 8-9 a.m. on 970-AM.