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Ohio State to begin paying academic bonuses to athletes

As college athletics is caught between amateurism and professionalism, some schools are cutting checks to their athletes.

It's a tumultuous time in college athletics, to say the least. The 30,000-foot view is that the college sports industry is caught between the amateur model and the professional model. Some schools and athletes have granted themselves permission to move ahead to a professional model while others have not, hence the tension you feel in the air.

For example, some administrators are currently clanging their heads together, hoping for a solution to NIL deals masquerading as pay-for-play. Meanwhile, others are just straight cutting checks to their athletes. And it's all perfectly NCAA legal.

Ohio State is the latest school to begin paying $5,980 to its athletes as academic bonuses. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Buckeyes will disperse two $1,495 checks per semester. 

The payments are approved by the NCAA -- because US judge Claudia Wilken in 2020 ruled its member schools could provide $5,980 per athlete per year, so long as the payments were tied to education. The Alston case, a 9-0 rout against the NCAA as ruled by the US Supreme Court last summer, strengthened the court system's stance against the NCAA's practice of separating money and college athletes.

As ESPN reported last month, only 22 of the 130 FBS schools said they had plans to pay their athletes for good grades. Nine SEC schools told ESPN they were already or had plans to dispense checks; Wisconsin was the only Big Ten school on that list. 

"The competitive market will emerge and we fully expect everyone will have these in the near future," Jeffrey Kessler, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the Alston case, told ESPN. "If not for COVID, I think it would have happened more quickly. ... With the combination of the educational aid and NIL, it's hard to not see that the welfare of athletes today is significantly advanced to where it was prior to the Alston decision."

One of the richest, most visible, and largest athletics departments is now on board. 

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.