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Athletics: Pay to play? UL looks to fund full attendance stipend for athletes

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Feb. 23, 2015

When schools from the NCAA’s Power Five conferences — the SEC, the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the Pac-12 — voted last month to give student-athletes a full cost of attendance stipend on top of grant-in-aid scholarship money already received, they left it up to those from Group of Five conferences to decide for themselves if they’d do the same.

When it all comes out in the wash, what some might deem laundry money — extra cash in the pockets of student-athletes to cover personal travel and incidentals — is no cheap proposition.

In fact, doing so in full could cost the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — a member of the Sun Belt Conference, which is a Group of Five league along with Conference USA, the Mountain West, the MAC and the AAC — more than $1.2 million per year.

Where will the money come from?

For an athletic program like the Ragin’ Cajuns’, which battles daily to make ends meet with a budget in the $21.5 million-range last fiscal year, there are no easy answers. But the call is theirs as to whether they’re willing to try to keep up with the big boys — and others from the Group of Five who intend to do the same.

"It won’t require any further voting," Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said.

Federal guidelines determine stipend amount.

Ragin’ Cajuns athletic director Scott Farmer said he’s told UL’s coaches "that we are monitoring it very closely to see what interpretations the NCAA comes out with, and what’s in, what’s not."

UL’s figure of $5,888 is believed to be roughly in the middle of the pack among Sun Belt schools, with some having an amount that’s a few thousand dollars more but others a couple thousand less.

Whether that ends up being the final number for the Cajuns, however, remains to be seen.

"Right now," UL football coach Mark Hudspeth said, "I think everybody seems to be in somewhat of a holding pattern until NCAA legislation gets a little more of a firm grip in regards to fairness in the amount of money.

"I think they’re trying to find a way to make this even across-the-board the best they can, and I certainly think they need to do that. I think it would too much disparity if you left it up to each individual institution."

With the amount differing in the thousands from one school to another, it could make it easier — based on perception, if nothing else — for certain programs to entice recruits than others.

Collusion accusations, however, are cause for concern — and that’s why it may not be possible for the number to be identical for all schools.

"That’s what’s gotten schools and conferences and the NCAA to courts right now," Farmer said.

It’s also for legal reasons that Group of Five conferences — the Sun Belt Conference, of which UL is a member — along with the Mountain West, the MAC, the AAC and Conference USA — have been advised by attorneys to not conduct a vote on the matter.

All individual schools accordingly are their own, and Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson — for one — cannot envision a scenario where anyone in his conference would lobby to have every other school in it just say no to paying full cost of attendance.

"I don’t expect that to occur," Benson said.

Just how many Group of Five schools opt to pay it all, however, remains to be seen.

"I think this year," Farmer said, "there’s a lot of the Group of Five kind of sitting back there, looking around to see what’s going on."

Not UL, though.

It hasn’t figured out exactly how yet, but it plans to pay.

"We want to do it," Farmer said, "because we’re gonna remain competitive. That’s the key."

Athletics: Federal guidelines determine stipend amout

 

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, February 22, 2015

 

The NCAA has approved a full cost of attendance stipend for student-athletes beyond their usual grant-in-aid scholarships starting Aug. 1, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is among those schools that have decided to pay it.

Details on precisely how cost-of-attendance will be calculated still must be finalized by the NCAA.

For now, the plan is to use the figure calculated by each individual school’s financial aid office based on federal guidelines — in UL’s case, the $5,888 per year per full student-athlete scholarship.

Coaches and athletic administrators at some schools would like for the amount to be the same for all.

For legal reasons related to federal anti-trust concerns, however, that may not be possible.

Ragin’ Cajuns athletic director Scott Farmer said he’s told UL’s coaches "that we are monitoring it very closely to see what interpretations the NCAA comes out with, and what’s in, what’s not."

UL’s figure of $5,888 is believed to be roughly in the middle of the pack among Sun Belt schools, with some having an amount that’s a few thousand dollars more but others a couple thousand less.

Whether that ends up being the final number for the Cajuns, however, remains to be seen.

"Right now," UL football coach Mark Hudspeth said, "I think everybody seems to be in somewhat of a holding pattern until NCAA legislation gets a little more of a firm grip in regards to fairness in the amount of money.

"I think they’re trying to find a way to make this even across-the-board the best they can, and I certainly think they need to do that. I think it would too much disparity if you left it up to each individual institution."

With the amount differing in the thousands from one school to another, it could make it easier — based on perception, if nothing else — for certain programs to entice recruits than others.

Collusion accusations, however, are cause for concern — and that’s why it may not be possible for the number to be identical for all schools.

"That’s what’s gotten schools and conferences and the NCAA to courts right now," Farmer said.

It’s also for legal reasons that Group of Five conferences — the Sun Belt Conference, of which UL is a member — along with the Mountain West, the MAC, the AAC and Conference USA — have been advised by attorneys to not conduct a vote on the matter.

All individual schools accordingly are their own, and Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson — for one — cannot envision a scenario where anyone in his conference would lobby to have every other school in it just say no to paying full cost of attendance.

"I don’t expect that to occur," Benson said.

Just how many Group of Five schools opt to pay it all, however, remains to be seen.

"I think this year," Farmer said, "there’s a lot of the Group of Five kind of sitting back there, looking around to see what’s going on."

Not UL, though.

It hasn’t figured out exactly how yet, but it plans to pay.

"We want to do it," Farmer said, "because we’re gonna remain competitive. That’s the key."