07/18/13 — Local opinion -- SEC could head down slippery slope

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Local opinion -- SEC could head down slippery slope

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on July 18, 2013 1:47 PM

Steve Spurrier may have been right but he also took the first steps down what is certain to be a slippery slope.

Spurrier, the head football coach at the University of South Carolina, revealed at the SEC Media Days on Tuesday that the league's football and men's basketball coaches voted unanimously that every student-athlete in basketball and football should be given a stipend to help pay for their parents' travel expenses to and from games.

"We believe those two sports, the income producers, those players -- most of them come from lower-income families -- that we should provide some expense money so their parents can go to the games -- lodging, travel, meals, what have you," Spurrier said.

"We're only talking about in football like $300 a game, basketball would be a little less, where the players in the course of the year have $3,600-$3,900, depending on how many games you play, just to have a little bit of pocket money and their parents can have money to come to games."

Spurrier and his SEC brethren are right in their intent to reward athletes for their hard work and the exposure they bring the conference and their respective institutions. According to the conference's web site, the SEC distributed $289.4 million to its 14 institutions as part of its revenue sharing plan during the 2012-13 fiscal year. The revenue sharing plan includes money generated by TV, bowl appearances, conference tournaments and NCAA tournament appearances.

Each school received $20.7 million.

There is no disputing that the majority of those millions of dollars were earned through the blood, sweat and tears of student-athletes. What is in question is the judgment of those student-athletes and their ability to balance school, athletics, notoriety and a thicker wallet.

Spurrier's motive seems genuine if the money given to athletes is simply for parents and family members to attend games. If exactly how the money is used is left up to the discretion of the athletes, then that's where things can get sticky.

The list of student-athletes entangled in improper benefits scandals in the last several years has left a growing stain on college athletics. From football players at North Carolina, Auburn, Ohio State, Oregon -- and athletes at all points in between -- few schools have been left unblemished by the poor choices of young adults torn between integrity and riches.

The loss of scholarships and being stripped of bowl and conference championship game eligibility are just some of the penalties levied against athletic programs in recent years because student-athletes made poor decisions involving money.

If the NCAA decides to venture down the slippery slope of paying student athletes, slamming on the brakes when things get out of control won't just be difficult. It might be impossible.