Ty Darlington

With lawsuits from EA Sports, Ed O’Bannon and Jeffrey Kessler and Jim Delany’s freshman ineligibility proposal in the news of late, there is no greater issue affecting college sports than the dichotomy of the collegiate model versus the billions of dollars football and men’s basketball generate.

While everyone in the industry has its idea how to split the pot without bringing the entire house down, one piece of legislation both sides of the aisle can agree on its cost of attendance, a new plus-sized scholarship that athletics departments will begin to offer this fall. It’s a four-figure check that won’t make anyone rich but will stop athletes and their families from digging into their own pockets to cover what a full scholarship does not. While no one will be exactly sure how much cost of attendance scholarships will cost per school until they actually go into effect, most estimates fall between $1-2 million. How will schools cover that additional expense? Some will cover it easily, but most won’t.

At a Big 12 “State of Collegiate Athletics” Forum Monday in Washington, D.C., Oklahoma offensive lineman Ty Darlington offered a plan that should spark some uncomfortable conversation when he returns to the Switzer Center.

It’s just one athlete’s opinion, and no athletics director (that we’ve seen, at least) has suggested cutting back coaches’ salaries to cover scholarship costs.

But one can see how many others may come to Darlington’s side. Coaches are overpaid. Know who agrees with that statement? A number of coaches. Hey Jim Harbaugh, are you worth $5 million a year? “No.” What about you, Bronco Mendenhall? “It’s amateur athletics, it’s not professional, and I’m not for paying (the student-athletes). And if coaches would be more realistic in what they’re expecting in their salaries that would be a great start to helping the game.” Et tu, Bill Snyder? “I’m grossly overpaid for what I do.”

Pull any coach in the top tax brackets aside and he’ll admit he’s overpaid, and so will the athletics director who hired him. And the next time the NCAA suspends a player for ordering a chicken sandwich with extra honey mustard, coaches’ and administrators’ salaries will be the first target of verbal assault. “How come the coaches can make millions…”

Darlington isn’t even the first person in college football to suggest paying athletes through coaches’ salaries. Steve Spurrier beat him to the punch by three years. “We as coaches believe they’re entitled to a little more than room, books, board and tuition. Again, we as coaches would be willing to pay it if they were to approve it to where our guys could get approximately get three-, four-thousand bucks a year. It wouldn’t be that much, but enough to allow them to live like normal student-athletes.”

The general public believes athletes are entitled to more than the standard scholarship they currently receive and it believes coaches are overpaid. In fact, the results of both polls would likely be more overwhelming than “Should the government offer free ice cream on Fridays?”

The market drives coaches pay packages. There is true competition for elite coaching talent – from the NFL, the broadcast booth, and corporate America. At the end of the day, programs are going to have to decide how much they are willing to pay the leaders of their programs. Most see this as a wise investment, but as coaches’ salaries continue to rise, one has to think we’ll begin to hear this discussion more and more.

Cost of attendance or not, that isn’t changing.