At the NCAA convention on Saturday, the Power 5 conferences—the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12—agreed to a proposal to increase the value of athletic scholarships toward covering expenses beyond tuition, the so-called "full cost of attendance." The measure passed 79 to 1 from a panel of 15 student-athletes and the 65 power conference schools.
The lone dissenting vote came from Boston College.
Now it would be unfair to speculate as to the reasons why BC voted against a measure that was considered a slam-dunk to pass without an official statement from the school, which I very much doubt will ever come out.
However, Athletic Director Brad Bates did comment on the topic of additional benefits back in October in The Heights; comments that may shed light on why the school falls where it does on the issue.
"Every time you talk about additional benefits of some sort, I think you're diluting the value of the education at Boston College," he said. "Our student-athletes on a full ride are receiving a quarter-of-a-million-dollar education, as you're fully aware of. I think dismissing the magnitude of that value is a mistake, because a Boston College education is an unbelievable opportunity. So, we'll see what the discussions are in terms of cost of attendance and the legal interpretations and the stipends, but my personal feeling is that the whole conversation should start with the fact that this is a very, very valuable and prestigious education that our student-athletes are receiving, and it's a privilege to be able to earn a scholarship to be a student-athlete."
"I think anything you do that further segregates student-athletes from the student body is not a good thing for student-athletes," Bates said. "I think the more integrated they are and the more they're treated like the rest of the campus, I think that's a context for greater formation and development and growth."
Update: Here is BC's official statement, via The Heights:
"Boston College is concerned with continuing to pass legislation that increases expenses when the vast majority of schools are already institutionally subsidized. The consequence of such legislation could ultimately hurt student-athletes if / when programs are cut. This legislation further segregates student-athletes from the general student population by increasing aid without need-based consideration. Legislation already exists for student-athletes in need through pell grants and the student-assistance fund. We have concerns that the Federal Financial aid formula is sufficiently ambiguous that adjustments for recruiting advantage will take place."
While there may be some merit to the argument that receiving a quarter-of-a-million-dollar education is fair compensation for participating in a varsity sport at Boston College, I also think the question of magnitude is where BC's argument breaks down.
The exact dollar amount per scholarship is still to be determined, but the stipend is estimated at $2,000 to $4,000 annually, which is a fraction of the cost of a year's worth of tuition, room and board at BC (valued at $62,000 a year). BC's cost of attendance gap is also on the low end of the ACC, tied with Notre Dame for lowest in the 14-team conference (Louisville was not included in materials prepared for the O'Bannon trial over the summer since the Cardinals had yet to join the league). The Heights estimates that BC would need $421,000 a year to cover the additional stipend; again, a fraction of the cost owed to, say, the department's former athletics directors and coaches.
Today's proposal also reverses an incredibly arbitrary ceiling on athletics scholarships that the NCAA set in 1975, largely seen as a measure to help schools save money. There's been a push in recent years to bring the personal expenses stipend back, last thwarted in 2011 when BC and other schools rejected an additional $2,000 stipend towards the full cost of attendance.
Regardless of the reasons for the lone dissenting vote, legitimate or otherwise, this is not a good look for the school or for Boston College athletics. I'm all for a healthy debate on the issue, but the time window for such discourse has long since passed. The proposal was going to pass with or without BC's 'yes' vote, especially after receiving an endorsement from all five power conferences, including BC's own conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference. The NCAA even allowed 15 student-athletes to vote on the proposal, which, of course they are going to vote 'yes' on a measure that increases the value of their scholarship.
Boston College knew this would pass. What point is being made as the lone dissenting voice in the crowd?
It's important to note that power conference and other non-football playing Division I conferences can opt to enact the full cost of attendance proposal as early as next fall, though it's unclear at this time whether the opt-in is at a per-conference or a per-school level. If the opt-in is at the school level, BC could continue to offer athletics scholarships that do not include the full cost of attendance stipend (estimated at around $1,200 a year).
But good luck on the recruiting trail if BC continues to be the only member of the Atlantic Coast Conference not offering a full cost of attendance athletics scholarship. Even if BC does eventually offer a full cost of attendance athletics scholarship, don't think that the "1" of 79-1 won't be used against Boston College on the recruiting trail. That's not exactly the story you want being told to prospective student-athletes.