The answer was so obvious, N.C. State football player Rob Crisp felt secure in speaking for everyone.
No ones going to turn down extra money, said Crisp, a senior offensive lineman from Burlington. Im all for help, if the NCAA or our school wants to help us.
Unprecedented financial help is coming after two historic events, in 24-hour span 10 days ago, put college athletes in line to get a cut of the revenue from the billions of dollars generated primarily by major football and mens basketball programs in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The catalysts for the upcoming change: The decision by the wealthiest college athletic programs on Aug. 7 to take more autonomy from the NCAA, clearing the way to pay stipends to players; and the NCAAs loss the next day in a landmark antitrust case filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed OBannon in U.S. District Court in California.
The details of the changes still need to be worked out. How will the athletes get paid? How many of them will get paid? Where will the money come from?
N.C. State athletics director Debbie Yow, a proponent for change to the current NCAA model, put it best when she said last week: So far it seems that everyone has the same questions, and we dont have any answers yet.
Up to this point, the NCAA has operated as an amateur model. Athletes are compensated with a scholarship a chance at an education but do not directly share the revenue they help generate.
Athletics directors and coaches have seen their contracts soar in the past five years with the additional revenue being generated by the boom in television contracts.
The NCAAs contract with CBS to air the mens basketball tournament is worth a reported $10.8 billion over 14 years. The so-called Power 5 conferences the ACC, SEC, Pacific-12, Big Ten and Big 12 have lined up an estimated total of $16.3 billion during the next 15 years for the television broadcast rights to their football games.
Almost beyond repair
To some, it has become clear that the NCAA has outgrown its amateur roots.
What we have to understand, and we have to accept, the NCAA is not amateur athletics anymore, N.C. Central mens basketball coach LeVelle Moton said.
Former North Carolina football player Ryan Taylor takes it one step further.
Theres so much money involved, the whole system is broken, said Taylor, who is in his fourth NFL season with the Green Bay Packers. Its almost beyond repair.
Even as its bottom line has grown, the NCAA has been reluctant to acknowledge the shifting landscape or initiate change. The OBannon case has helped push for a way to fix the old model.
Both the OBannon case and the autonomy of the five big conferences have addressed a starting point for athletes to get paid.
In her 99-page ruling in the OBannon case on Aug. 8, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken wrote that the NCAA can no longer prohibit schools from paying the full cost of attendance. The five conferences made that cost a top priority at their annual meetings in January.
Hoping for some help
Paying an athlete the full cost of attendance essentially amounts to an annual stipend, in addition to the costs that a scholarship covers: tuition, books, room, board.
College administrators refer to the full cost of attendance as the gap between the scholarship and what it actually costs to attend school, including gas money, parking, trips home or even laundry. The financial aid office at each school, independent of the athletic department, calculates the cost of attendance.
At N.C. State, theres one number for both in-state and out-of-state students: $3,828 for the 2014-15 academic year. At UNC, the cost is $4,382 for in-state students and $6,118 for out-of-state students.
The stipend for the full cost of attendance is a long way from a full pay-for-play model, but it would do a lot and mean a lot for a lot of guys, said University of North Carolina junior football player Landon Turner.
N.C. States Crisp said a stipend would be nice to help players pay for their family to attend games. Turner said just having some disposable income, without having to rely on his family for support, would also be a help.
Working out the guidelines for cost of attendance will be a challenge, N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said, but one worth taking on.
Im in favor of supporting the students, Woodson said. Weve got to make sure that we understand what the playing rules are and how its calculated so that we wont get ourselves in a position of having dramatic differences that play into recruiting.
Theres also the matter of which athletes will be entitled to full-cost benefits. Wilkens ruling only specifically mentions football and mens basketball.
At N.C. State, it would cost $375,144 annually to pay full-cost benefits for just those two sports. If you add all 18 varsity sports, the annual payout would go up to almost $1.1 million.
Yow was unable to predict how many athletes would end up getting full-cost benefits but said the cost of attendance is something that I think we can manage and should manage.
UNCs across-the-board costs would be significantly more than N.C. States since it supports 28 varsity sports. Its cost of attendance is also higher.
Before the autonomy vote, Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch said the federal Title IX laws could be a potential factor if only football and mens basketball players get a cut of the revenue. He expects some female athletes will need to be paid, too.
Finding the money
Where the money will come from is the primary question for administrators, who can receive proposals for paying athletes from the conferences as early as October.
The impetus for the OBannon case came when the former UCLA star saw a version of himself on a popular video game. He knew that under NCAA rules, he was unable to be compensated for use of his image.
In her ruling, Wilken wrote that football and mens basketball players should be entitled to at least $5,000 in a fund for every year of their eligibility to be collected after they leave college. But the video game no longer exists, and the television revenue falls under a separate antitrust lawsuit, filed by sports labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler on behalf of a group of former and current athletes, in a New Jersey federal court in March.
Woodson said its too early to determine where the money for both full-cost benefits or the use-of-image funds outlined in the OBannon case will come from and how much each school will need.
The major universities are working with large athletic budgets. For example, UNCs reported athletic revenue in 2013 was $82.7 million.
As the revenues have grown, more of the money has gone to coaches salaries, though theres little talk of any cuts to fund pay for players. Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewskis pay peaked at $9.6 million in 2011; Alabama football coach Nick Saban just got a raise to $6.5 million.
The three ACC Triangle football coaches all made more than $1.7 million this past season, with N.C. State basketball coach Mark Gottfried and UNC basketball coach Roy Williams both near the $2 million mark.
The real increase has been in assistants pay. Clemson football assistant Chad Morris will be paid $1.2 million to coach the Tigers offense. Louisiana State defensive coordinator John Chavis will make $1.3 million in 2014.
The Wolfpack Club at N.C. State and the Rams Club at UNC already are responsible for funding scholarships. Those groups, which depend on alumni donations, would likely be counted on to help with any new financial initiatives.
Woodson said his main concern was the possible effect of the new costs on the overall health of the athletic department.
The last thing that we want, and I think its true for most universities, is to lose (some) sports because of this, Woodson said.
Other schools could suffer
Moton, the basketball coach at N.C. Central, can appreciate the challenge of balancing the books. Because they are in one of the conferences outside of the Power 5, Motons NCCU players would likely get a full cost-of-attendance stipend.
Moton is torn on the issue, as a former player who remembers his jersey being sold, and as a coach whos trying to compete against the more financially powerful schools.
We are the guys that will suffer, the low majors, Moton said. The rich are going to continue to get richer, and the poor are going to continue to get poorer.
But I think the athletes deserve something, without a doubt.
Taylor, who graduated from UNC in 2010, doesnt think the full-cost benefits are enough. He thinks athletes should be able to market themselves in ways similar to the Olympic model.
Taylor said the primary need for athletes is improved medical coverage after they leave school. He pointed out that schools arent required to help athletes with injuries after their eligibility is up.
If you leave school with a stack of medical bills, youre playing catch-up for the rest of your life, Taylor said. I dont know all the answers, but you cant say youre for helping the athlete if youre not willing to medically protect them.
The big 5 conferences will have the ability to improve medical benefits. With the recent events and structural changes, theres at least momentum for athletes to get more benefits.
Duke senior Anthony Boone, a senior quarterback from near Charlotte (Weddington High), will miss out on any changes. But he believes they will be a good start in helping athletes.
There definitely should be more of a reward besides the wins on Saturdays, Boone said.
Andrew Carter and Laura Keeley contributed to this report.
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