(11) Kentucky
13
Final
30
(1) Georgia

SEC players: Stipends nice, but not a difference-maker

In three weeks, on the first day of classes, UGA will direct deposit money into the bank accounts of their scholarship athletes. That’s normal, as it’s for scholarships, but this time the money will be more: It will include the cost-of-attendance money, allowable by the NCAA for the first time.

For a Georgia athlete, that means an extra $3,221 per year.

“I’m probably gonna buy food,” senior linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “Maybe save it all up if I have any emergency situations. Maybe actually, finally be able to buy a nice pair of clothes instead of just going to school with what I had, and waiting till holidays to get new clothes and outfits.

That could be the cases for football athletes and athletes across the SEC, and the other Power 5 conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. The cost-of-attendance stipends have arrived.

“If I have to send it home, yeah I’ll send it back home,” said Kentucky football player A.J. Stamps, who stands to receive another $2,284 per year. “But most definitely I’m going to use it for me this semester.”

The stipends are the result of years of court battles over athlete compensation. Those battles still have a long way to go, but cost-of-attendance stemmed from last year’s ruling in the Ed O’Bannon case.

Then a problem arose: The discrepancy between cost-of-attendance (computed by each school’s financial-aid office, using Department of Education guidelines) is different. Tennessee’s is $5,666 per year, for instance. Georgia’s cost-of-attendance was initially much lower before some “very creative” changes, as football coach Mark Richt put it, and now UGA’s ranks in the middle of the SEC.

As this summer began, cost-of-attendance became a flash-point issue among the adults: Coaches worried about recruiting disparities, with sympathetic fans and media weighing in on their sides. Administrators and conference commissioners have been caught in between, seeking to mollify the coaches and also navigate the new world.

But what about the actual beneficiaries: The athletes?

Numerous players were surveyed at SEC Media Days two weeks ago, and a consensus emerged: It won’t make a big difference in recruiting because the money difference isn’t enough.

Texas A&M’s Germain Efidi: “If school A is offering a thousand more every two years, what’s that? … I don’t know if you particularly want guys that are saying, ‘OK this school is offering this much more money.’ And you know when you break it up it’s not gonna be a huge discrepancy over a long period of time.”

Auburn’s Jonathan Jones: “You’re looking for an opportunity to play at the next level or get an education. So I don’t think a few hundred dollars is gonna change guy’s minds about where they go to to school because you’re going to want to go where you have the best chance to get in the NFL or get a great degree.”

Georgia’s Jenkins: “It might have a minimal factor if a guy is stuck between two schools. But I think if a guy chooses his school based on how much money he can get a month, he’s not the type of person I want playing on my team.”

Not everyone agrees, however.

Florida’s Jonathan Bullard said the COA difference probably wouldn’t have affected him because he and his family were in good shape. But he knows his situation isn’t everybody else’s.

“I do think that it will be a big factor for kids who are money-hungry, and who don’t have that. Kids who do see their mom struggling, who do see their dad struggling, or who don’t have what they want,” Bullard said. “So I think it will change recruiting. If they don’t give everyone the same a lot of the kids will go to the school, I believe, that gives the most money to them.”

It also will be interesting to see where the issue of player compensation stands in the future. The O’Bannon case is in appeal, putting cost-of-attendance still in some limbo. Other cases are in the court system.

“It’s getting better. I’ve got one more year in the NCAA, and then I’m free,” Bullard said. “It’s getting better. I think they could still do a little more to help us. We get a lot of perks, but we also bring in a lot of perks. So hopefully it’ll get better. This is the start of them giving us a little something. So hopefully it continues to get a little better.”

 

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