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Athletics: UL releases plan to cover cost-of-attendance stipends

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, August 28, 2015


The trying task: figuring out how to fund new NCAA-approved cost-of-attendance stipends beyond usual scholarship money paid to student-athletes.

UL athletic director Scott Farmer and the Ragin’ Cajuns athletic department now have a plan in a place.

Farmer said late this week that “we are paying the cost of attendance,” and that money will be distributed some time next month.

Not all UL student-athletes, however, will get the full amount of slightly more than $4,000 on top of their usual scholarship this school year — one way the university is phasing in being able to afford the new expense.

Another: across-the-board budget cuts of 5-to-8 percent within individual teams and offices.

“We went in there and asked everybody to give up a certain percentage of their operating budget to help pay for this,” Farmer said. “Now the good news is … the actual cost of attendance went down significantly (compared to last year).”

As a result, instead of the original projection of needing up to $1.248 million to cover cost of cost of attendance — based on a figure of $5,888 per student from last school year — that figure is now approximately $750,000.

According to information requested from and provided by UL, “In 2015-16, the gap between a full grant-in-aid agreement and Cost of Attendance is $4,036.00.”

Athletic grants-in-aid at UL are valued at roughly $18,000 for in-state students and $26,000-plus for out-of-staters, Farmer said previously.

Cost of attendance, as adopted by the NCAA and put in place for this school year, is a way of helping student-athletes cover incidental costs like travel between school and home, laundry, some food and personal and entertainment beyond simply tuition, fees, books, room and board.

Pocket money, in other words.

The stipend represents the amount — as defined by the federal government, and calculated by schools based on their individual costs — between the value of scholarship and the true cost of attending school.

Farmer said student-athletes from so-called “equivalency sports” will receive $2,000, or the prorated amount of $2,000 that matches their partial scholarship if they are not on full scholarship.

According to NCSA Athletic Recruiting’s website, “students who play equivalency sports might receive only a partial scholarship.” Equivalency sports — also sometimes referred to as “non-revenue” or “Olympic” sport” — typically do not produce revenue for the school.

But those in so-called “head-count” sports at UL — football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, women’s tennis — will receive the full amount of $4,036.

The partial amount helps transition in funding of the stipend.

But UL does intend to eventually pay all of its student-athletes the full amount (or prorated amount for those on partial scholarship), and perhaps could do so as soon as next school year.

“That is what our goal is,” Farmer said this week. “We’re trying to use this as a stopgap so we can keep raising money and get to the full amount (for everyone).”

Paying cost of attendance is not mandated by the NCAA or by individual conferences.

Schools within the Sun Belt Conference, to which UL belongs, are taking varying approaches to paying the stipend – ranging from paying in full to making partial payments or not paying at all.

UL was the first Sun Belt school to commit to paying.

Some including Farmer view not doing so as a competitive disadvantage.

“Everybody in our league has had to sit back and recalculate about how we can do it,” Texas State coach Dennis Franchione told the San Marcos (Texas) Daily Record.

“The teams that do it have a recruiting advantage,” added Franchione, whose school — according to the Daily Record — plans to starting paying its 215 student-athletes the full amount of about $3,040 starting in the 2016-17 school year regardless of whether they are on full or partial scholarship. “The teams that don’t have a harder time.”

But at least one Cajun coach — head football coach Mark Hudspeth — is not necessarily convinced that’s the case.

“It has not even come up one time (when recruiting), believe that or not,” Hudspeth said last month.

“And I just think that even though that we are (paying), and some schools are not, everybody’s gonna eventually get to that.

“But I still think,” he added, “that student-athletes are gonna make the decision about their next four or five years on the university itself, on the people itself, on the opportunities themselves — and not just because of a little extra stipend on top of the scholarship.”

Hudspeth, in other words, is a tough sell.

“I don’t know if I’ve always been a proponent of (the stipend),” he said, “but I’m anxious to see how it works out.

“If it’s a plus for our student-athletes, I’m always for it,” the Cajun coach added. “I just hope it is a plus for our student-athletes, and (they) use it in a way that’s beneficial for them in a positive way.”