Pay-for-play debate brews at Quinnipiac

Matt Eisenberg

The latest NCAA allegations regarding the University of Miami football and basketball teams have re-established the discussion on whether or not college athletes should receive additional stipends to supplement their scholarships.

According to Yahoo! Sports, former Miami Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro has provided thousands of illegal benefits to at least 72 athletes between 2002 and 2010. Now the University of Miami could face severe penalties.

Currently college athletes are allowed scholarships for tuition and fees, room and board and required course-related books, according to NCAA regulations. There are many student-athletes on partial scholarships, which cover only part of those fees.

Athletes are not allowed to receive additional stipends for play, nor are they to contact agents, seek endorsement deals with companies, sign with agents or sell their own athletic merchandise – things for which Miami athletes were accused. Even something as small as taking a free meal from McDonald’s counts as an NCAA violation.

Quinnipiac men’s basketball’s leading scorer James Johnson said he thinks college athletes should earn some kind of money.

“I think players should get paid moderately, as long as it’s fair for all sports,” Johnson said. “We put a lot of time into the program. … We have expenses too.”

Quinnipiac Director of Athletics and Recreation Jack McDonald said he believes that student-athletes should not be paid because it does not reflect the concept of scholarships.

“The value of the college scholarship is much more than the dollar value,” McDonald said. “It’s learning to grow up; it’s having roommates and teammates and classmates. So I think the value of a college scholarship is much, much greater.”

McDonald said that getting paid to play is not a priority in the minds of athletes.

“They’re concerned about playing sports, getting their degree and having a career,” he said. “What you see in the newspapers today is probably barely one percent of all the student-athletes who are in college. It’s a tiny, tiny, tiny number.”

Johnson said he plays more “for the love of the game,” but admits having an unbalanced system could lead to greed.

“I just think it would take away from college sports themselves just because … [athletes] will just start playing for money,” Johnson said.

Not all student-athletes receive scholarships. Each team is limited to a certain number of total scholarships and they can be split into partial ones. The amount is less at the Division II level and nonexistent at the Division III level. Ivy League schools do not permit athletic scholarships at all.

“Division II athletes work just as hard in probably even more schools and even more sports than Division I. Division II athletes work just as hard with less scholarship dollars,” McDonald said. “You have people at Harvard, Yale, Army, Navy, Air Force and other non-scholarship Division I programs who do extremely well too. I do not think they should be paid.”

Bryant Gumbel said on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that he believes college athletes should be paid because of their roles in college sports.

“We have this multi-billion dollar collegiate sports industry,” he said in the March 30 episode. “We have to figure out a way to fairly compensate those who are fueling that industry.”

If the NCAA tries to implement a pay-for-play system, it will have to do it for all sports and be fair to all athletes, from stars to bench players, and all positions. For every quarterback that would get paid, each offensive lineman would too.

“If [a pay-for-play system] happens in football, they want it to happen in football. If they have it in basketball, they want to have it in basketball,” McDonald said. “They’re strictly NCAA sports. No one talks about paying the squash player, the sailor or the cross-country runner. It can’t be practical.”

With Title IX in place to ensure gender equality, players for both men’s and women’s teams would need to be paid.

“We’re talking about a Title IX situation where … you gotta pay the softball team and the volleyball team what you’re going to pay the football team and the basketball team,”’s Pat Forde said July 18.

Creating an even pay-for-play system that fits Title IX standards would likely be extremely difficult to execute, McDonald said.

Sporting Intelligence reported in April that the average NBA player earns $4.79 million each year, whereas the maximum salary for any WNBA player is $103,500, according to Yahoo! Sports.

“It would have to happen equitably for men and women, and equitably for all sports,” McDonald said.

One of the penalties the University of Miami could face for Shapiro’s transgressions is the death penalty, NCAA President Mark Emmert told the Associated Press Aug. 19. The death penalty is the elimination of the involved sport for at least one year, according to NCAA rules, and has only been enforced five times in history. Miami was put on probation in 2003 for baseball infractions, and the death penalty is applicable to repeat violators.

McDonald said he believes that the penalties for each instance – he did not refer to any specific cases – should focus on the people involved instead of the people coming in.

“I would prefer to see another sanction to universities rather than penalizing the new coach and the new student-athletes,” McDonald said. “If there are athletes or coaches on the team that have made mistakes, then they should be penalized, but we should not be penalizing the people who come in two, three or four years later.”

The NCAA released a commercial that says most of the 400,000 NCAA student-athletes will be going pro in something other than sports. McDonald said, “We’re dealing with roughly 20-30 [athletes] in the newspaper” for a pay-for-play system.

Said Johnson: “I think it could happen along the road, as long as its fair for everybody.”