A hotly-debated topic of late is whether or not collegiate athletes should get paid.
Some argue that athletes make their schools a considerable amount of money and should benefit financially because of it.
Others, though, say a scholarship — or other advantages already afforded to the student-athletes — is sufficient, since the main goal of going to college is to get an education.
Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, as a guest of Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf as part of “Newsmakers Week”, shared his thoughts on the idea of giving student-athletes a stipend.
“I’m all for the stipend,” he said. “I think that’s a good step.”
Byrne said the way things are set up right now if a collegiate athlete gets a Pell Grant they will not be eligible to receive a stipend, which isn’t the way to go.
“I think in reality, the people who are qualified to secure the Pell Grants, that they’re the ones that need the money the most.”
Byrne said he and his father Bill, who has also spent time as an athletic director, have seen athletes take their scholarship check and use it to send money back home.
“That’s not the intent of it,” he said. “WE need to make sure that they’re getting money in their pocket for their living expenses while they’re in college, that they can have clothes on their back, shoes on their feet.”
The important thing, he added, is making sure the student-athletes are “taken care of.”
And that’s where the stipend would come in, though the question then becomes if there will be a competitive imbalance with regards to which schools can afford to pay the stipend and which schools can’t.
That, Byrne conceded, could create new divisions inside Division I athletics.
“It’s certainly heading that way,” he said. “Will it happen in the next five years? I don’t know.”
Byrne said there has been discussion about there being another division and noted media has talked about schools seceding and creating their own NCAA-like organization.
“I don’t want to see it get to that point because I think the NCAA, even though they get criticized regularly, there is value that they bring,” he said. “And you forget about the revenue that is generated through the Division I schools especially, and the BCS-level schools, that go to fund Division II, Division III programs and the opportunities that come along.
“And what’s often forgot about when the debate about paying players and stipends and all those things, we just added sand volleyball so we’re going to be at 20 sports. Eighteen of them lose money.”
That means the university must find ways to keep sports that don’t bring in revenue afloat. Arizona, Byrne said, gets tuition waivers and exchanges energy costs, but other than that the athletic department is self-sufficient.
“So we need to generate those dollars to help pay for those other experiences,” he said. “And we can’t forget, at the core of where the NCAA started it was across the board sports and having the ability for a lot of young men — and then as Title IX continued to advance, young women — have opportunities that we can sit here for three days and talk about those experiences on the show.”