College football kicks off tonight, and for the first time ever, fans will be watching athletes that receive financial compensation from their schools.*
In light of this, the Boston Globe ran a story on Tuesday spotlighting the debate among local athletic directors on whether or not to offer the CoA stipends. In general, it was made clear that private schools offered much smaller stipends than large state schools. More interestingly, BC specifically is offering the lowest Cost of Attendance stipend among the 65 FBS schools, at $1,400 per year; just ahead of BC is USC at $1,580 and Syracuse at $1,632.
What does this mean? It's hard to ascertain any specifics from the article (which you should read in its entirety). The gap between the value of an athletic scholarship and the "full cost of attendance" is based on a federal formula, but two lingering questions that were left unresolved are a) do schools have the ability to fudge the formula to get desired results?, and b) what, specifically, accounts for the difference school by school?
We do know that there's no way cost-of-living in a certain area is taken into account. These stipends ostensibly are intended to cover things like transportation, food and housing costs that are associated with attending college but not covered by a scholarship. Given that the two lowest schools on the list are in LA and Boston, the cost of those things in the surrounding area certainly is not taken into account.
But the other question on how each school specifically calculates their cost of attendance is going to be a hot topic in coming years. Each school's financial aid office is tasked with calculating cost of attendance. While these calculations are based on certain federal guidelines, there seems to be plenty of room to fudge the numbers. Will the cost of attendance be recalculated at some schools to help them gain a recruiting advantage?
From a BC perspective, what obviously sticks out like a sore thumb is the fact that the school was adamantly against these stipends to begin with - casting the lone dissenting vote among FBS schools on the question of whether to allow them - and now the school is #65 out of #65 on the list. Is that a coincidence? Maybe, but it's something fans are going to hotly debate. In the Globe article, Brad Bates still sounds pretty unconvinced about the stipends, viewing them as a necessary evil.
There are two other issues from the article I find worthy of a bit of commentary:
1) While the COA stipends will obviously put schools with bigger revenue streams at an advantage, the poor-mouthing about how these will bankrupt athletic departments and cause cuts to sports is pretty laughable. For years, even "non-marquee" schools in smaller conferences, like UNH and Maine, have happily spent millions of dollars annually on coaches and facilities. A couple grand to each player is going to sink the whole operation?
2) The impact on Hockey East should be interesting. BU was noncommittal in the Globe article about whether or not they'd pay the stipends, but odds seem pretty good that they will at least pay them out in hockey. UNH and Maine on the other hand, two traditional hockey powers that have been in some ways left behind by schools with more resources in recent years, have already said they're not going to give stipends, at least initially. We'll see how that impacts them in the years to come.
As the debate over the future of athletics and the cost-of-attendance stipends rages on, it will be interesting to see how BC is impacted. Where do you see this going within 5 or 10 years?