South Carolina’s outspoken coach first floated the idea at the Southeastern Conference’s spring meetings last year. Fellow coaches and league administrators listened, but it made little, if any, progress.
He trotted out his stipend plan again this week and said Wednesday that football coaches voted 14-0 to present the proposal to league athletic directors. The ADs will discuss it and decide whether to present it to school presidents and chancellors for an official vote Friday.
“We’re trying to get extra money for living expense, academic expense, game-related expense to our players because of the tremendous amount of money — billions — they’re bringing” in, Spurrier said.
Spurrier’s plan seemed farfetched in 2011, but then the NCAA Division I Board of Directors started working on a proposal that would give scholarship athletes $2,000 toward the full cost of attendance — money that covers expenses beyond tuition, room and board, books and fees.
The NCAA has delayed implementing the stipend while seeking feedback on an issue that was met with criticism and concern.
Spurrier and others, especially those in the powerful and wealthy SEC, believe $2,000 isn’t even enough.
Spurrier and his SEC colleagues would like to give football and men’s basketball players “approximately $3,500 to $4,000” — out of pocket — for the entire year to cover expenses.
“We as coaches believe they’re entitled to a little more than room, books, board and tuition,” Spurrier said. “Again, we as coaches would be willing to pay it if they were to approve it to where our guys could get approximately get three-, four-thousand bucks a year. It wouldn’t be that much, but enough to allow them to live like normal student-athletes.
“We think they need more and deserve more. It’s as simple as that.”
It’s not really simple, though.
When asked if his plan included all 85 scholarship football players, Spurrier said, “Well, that’s where it gets a little tricky.”
Other issues are sure to arise, too.
Would the plan be in compliance with Title IX? Is it really fair to offer the additional stipend only to student-athletes in revenue-generating sports? And what about the notion that giving extra money to football and men’s basketball players in the SEC essentially would amount to a free-agent system that could entice the nation’s top kids to sign with the richest conference?
“It’s one of those things as coaches that we’re constantly fighting for kids and doing everything we can to help them,” Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. “And I really appreciate that. I’m the same way, but on the same hand, I also know it’s more complex than we maybe think it is and there’s a lot of things that go into it. You have to be aware of that.
“Yeah, it’s easy to just talk about football doing it, but if you’re going to do it, you can’t just do it for football and basketball. You have to do it for all the sports and it can’t just be for schools in the SEC. It has to be all over the country.”
Spurrier recalled making $75,000 annually at Duke in 1987, plus $25,000 for his weekly television show, and pointed out how coaching salaries have multiplied repeatedly in the 25 years since. All but two SEC coaches — Kentucky’s Joker Phillips and Mississippi’s Hugh Freeze — makes at least $2 million annually.
But Spurrier noted that scholarship athletes haven’t benefited from the ever-growing boon, getting marginally more than the room, board and books Spurrier got when he played at Florida in the 1960s.
LSU coach Les Miles agreed.
“We recognize that the income producers are both the football and basketball programs, period,” Miles said. “So there’s a want to say with this extra income we would like to provide cost of education and cost of expense stipends to those players. We recognize that it’s going to be difficult for every team on every campus — volleyball, gymnastics, baseball, etc. — to come up with the same number.
“What we’re saying is the revenue-income sports, certainly football, would share the income that’s being produced, paying it back to those guys. It would be a difficult task putting it to work, but I think it’s something we all want to push forward.”