Part 2: The proposed changes and their impact on volleyball – the full cost of attendance debate
by Kathy DeBoer
The summer’s presidential retreat spawned four subgroups designated to work on particular areas of reform: the student-athlete well-being working group, the resource allocation working group, the committee on academic performance and the rules working group.
The group doing the most ground-shifting work is the first one. To answer the criticism that none of the new money going into intercollegiate athletics is directly benefiting the student-athletes who are producing the increases, proposals are being studied to allow a full scholarship to include $2000 beyond the cost of room, board, tuition, fees and books. Even the non-mathematicians among us can do the calculation on what that increase will entail if it is spread across the athletics department. The target groups for more aid, of course, are football and men’s basketball players as the rights fee producers, but Title IX will likely mean that a number of women’s sports will be included in the increase. An institution which funds 250 total grants-in-aid will see a $500,000 increase in their scholarship budget if they include all their sports in the new ceiling.
It is anticipated that the BCS automatic qualifier schools, currently those in the Big 10, Big 12, ACC, SEC, Big East and Pac 12, will be able to afford the $2000 increase through rights fees escalation and controlling other costs. The frightening prospect for volleyball lovers is that those schools on the financial fringes of either an elite conference or DI generally, will choose to shed sports in an attempt to stay in the mix with their high profile programs.
The driver is football, and more specifically, football television money which, unlike the NCAA men’s basketball payout, is not broadly shared throughout Division I and the NCAA. The recent round of conference realignments is fueled by calculations on campuses about the best path to stay in a healthy BCS grouping of schools. The conferences viewed as safe havens are the Big 10, the Pac 12, the SEC and the ACC. The Big 12 and the Big East have lost key football-playing schools and are both scrambling to regain their footing. The desire to align with or to stay aligned with the major football programs is trumping all other considerations including protecting traditional rivalries, geographic proximity, and the repercussions for other sports.
Those conferences without escalating rights fees or large football stadiums will, in all likelihood, be structurally relegated to second tier status in Division I since they will not be able to fund the $2000 increase. They may also choose to tier their sports within the conference, providing full cost-of-attendance to some and not others.
A consistently used catchphrase in this debate is ‘competitive equity’; one side argues that the move to add $2000 to full grants-in-aid is destroying it, while the other side argues that, even though all schools have had the same scholarship limit for years, equity on the playing field has been a myth for a long time. The ‘myth’ group cites as evidence that, over the last seven years, 90% of Division I championships have been won by teams from BCS conferences. The ‘myth-buster’ group can name every upset of the last seven years and is vigilantly opposed to institutionalizing the disparities between schools in DI.
The impact on volleyball of this change is hard to predict at the moment. Currently only Hawaii appears in our top-ten poll as a representative from outside the BCS AQ group, but Northern Iowa, San Diego and Pepperdine in the top 20 make an argument that funding is not the final determinant of elite play.
It seems as if a two-tiered scholarship structure will make a difference in recruit’s choices so the question becomes will the schools in conferences where volleyball is an important sport make the choice to upgrade those programs to full cost of attendance. How will these changes impact our 22 men’s programs? Will there be cuts or will institutions with diminished prospects for success in major sports be incentivized to try to make a mark on the national scene in volleyball?
This working group is also considering proposing multi-year grants-in-aid, and eliminating the six year restriction on five years of aid. Neither of these provisions will have much impact on volleyball.
Next week we will explore the proposals coming from the resource allocation working group.