As schools announce they will provide the newly NCAA-permitted cost of attendance stipends to their student-athletes, we're going to get interesting stories of how those schools are finding coins under couch cushions — or in state legislatures — to pay athletes more for their work.
Colorado State's means of doing so may be the most ingenious so far: The school's just passing the money Florida will pay it as part of Jim McElwain's much-ballyhooed $7 million buyout on to its players, reports Matt Stephens of Fort Collins paper The Coloradoan.
In total, the stipend is expected to cost CSU $654,000 for its allotment of 214.1 scholarships.
Where is CSU, with an athletic budget that ranks in the bottom half of the Mountain West, coming up with this extra funding?
The $7 million buyout the University of Florida is paying CSU over the next six years for hiring away McElwain back in December. Athletic director Joe Parker told the Coloradoan he expects McElwain's buyout to cover cost of attendance at CSU for the next three-to-five years. Beyond that, the school will look at other revenue streams to help the funding, including ticket sales and donations, but no future plan is set in stone.
Cost of attendance stipends have been cast as a tentative step toward formal compensation of student-athletes for their labor with money, instead of funds for tuition, room, and board, which athletic scholarships had previously covered. And in that sense, I'm all for it.
But cost of attendance expenses will vary significantly from school to school, and some schools may struggle to find funds to outlay. Colorado State tagged McElwain with a huge $7.5 million buyout in part because it knew it could eventually get value from it, and the Rams struck gold (and bragged about it) when they negotiated a $7 million figure that would allow McElwain to leave for Florida.
The math doesn't totally work, even accounting for inflation, if you estimate that the $7 million is supposed to cover Colorado State student-athletes for the next three to five years — but it makes sense if you know that Florida is paying $3 million in installments over the next six years (likely $500,000 per year), with McElwain paying $2 million, and another $2 million coming from a guarantee game between the two teams in Gainesville between 2017 and 2020.
That titanic buyout was noted by some as the result of an arrogant miscalculation by Florida and Jeremy Foley, which will now effectively pay almost all of Colorado State's costs of providing more to its student-athletes for the next several years with what amounts to less than half a percent of its nine-figure annual revenues.
Personally, I still think that paying less than full freight on a contracted buyout for the coach it wanted is probably a decent bit of negotiating work for Florida — and I don't mind where the money is going one bit.