With plans to give more money to student-athletes to cover the full costs of attending school, South Carolina’s biggest colleges said Wednesday they don’t need a proposed state law that would pay football and basketball players.
A Senate panel heard from ex-football players and college leaders, including USC athletics director Ray Tanner, about a bill that would require South Carolina’s largest colleges to pay student-athletes up to $10,000 a year.
The bill would provide stipends for student-athletes’ school costs and money for those who graduate after their college sports careers are over.
Supporters of the proposal say they want student-athletes to share in the $11 billion-a-year college sports industry. But school officials said the plan would violate NCAA regulations if it becomes state law.
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“We’d either violate a state law or the NCAA,” Tanner said after testifying.
USC and Clemson University told legislators they will provide stipends to cover costs that athletics scholarships don’t meet.
The NCAA’s largest five conferences – including the SEC and ACC, where USC and Clemson play — have decided to provide annual stipends of about $4,000 a year to athletes on full scholarships, starting in August. That added money will help cover the complete cost of attendance at each school, including tuition, books, supplies, room, meals and personal expenses.
USC plans to give full-scholarship athletes $4,201 a year, starting in August. A student-athlete receiving a half scholarship would get $2,100. Athletes would get payments every two weeks.
Clemson’s full-scholarship athletes will receive $3,604 a year, said Stephanie Ellison, who heads the school’s athletics compliance operations.
In addition to those stipends, USC and other colleges can pay for some extra college-related costs – including parking, business attire for job interviews and iPads – through a 24-year-old NCAA fund.
Parking alone will cost $700 a year at a new dorm where 255 athletes will live starting next year, behind the Carolina Coliseum.
The fund to pay for these extras comes from the NCAA, based on the number of needs-based Pell Grants recipients there are among athletes. USC receives about $350,000 a year for the fund, said Chris Rogers, who oversees athletics compliance operations at USC.
That fund also can be used to pay for emergencies, including travel for a death in the family, and medical needs, such as dental visits for students who have received little care before coming to school, Rogers said.
Athletes also can qualify for as much as $5,730 a year in Pell Grants, based on their family income.
“We’re doing some good things, long overdue, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Tanner said.
‘Trickle down to the athletes’
But state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said his proposal to pay student-athletes is needed because schools are not required to grant the stipends.
Kimpson’s bill would cover football, and the men’s and women’s basketball teams at the University of South Carolina and Clemson University.
Kimpson brought two former USC football players to testify before senators Wednesday.
Preston Thorne hardly recognizes the University of South Carolina campus where he played football for the Gamecocks a decade ago. Today, that campus has more than $200 million in new athletics facilities, built as athletic revenues have skyrocketed.
“We want to see the same change trickle down to the athletes,” the former defensive lineman told senators.
Kimpson’s proposal would provide up to $5,000 each school year to athletes who keep at least a 2.0 grade-point average.
They could get the money as long as the amount paid out does not exceed the cost of attending the school.
In addition, the bill calls for athletes to get another $5,000 a year, capped at a total of $25,000, kept in a trust fund until they graduate and attend a financial literacy course.
The trust fund would provide some financial security for the large majority of college athletes who do not go onto professional sports, Kimpson said.
The S.C. schools would gain a competitive advantage over rivals by offering the trust fund money, said Steve Silver, a Philadelphia attorney who testified in support of Kimpson’s bill.
They also could spur the five large athletics conferences to follow the state’s lead, he added. “South Carolina could become a leader in protecting athletes.”
Kimpson’s proposal would cost USC and Clemson combined $2.4 million a year, according to a fiscal impact statement.
“This is considered the minor leagues now,” Kimpson said of college sports.
Trust funds: ‘We will be a part’
But USC and Clemson could stand to lose a lot more if the bill passes, athletics officials said.
Tanner said USC would fall out of compliance with the NCAA and lose the ability to play sports sanctioned by college sports’ governing body.
That would cost USC nearly $100 million a year in revenue, while Clemson stands to lose about $75 million, according to a fiscal impact report.
The colleges said they already plan to take on the cost-of-attendance issue that is addressed in Kimpson’s bill.
However, the trust fund in Kimpson’s proposal, which could pay out up to $25,000, is problematic, officials said.
While cost-of-attendance stipends have won NCAA approval, the trust fund idea has not. A state-approved trust fund would violate NCAA rules, Tanner said.
A dispute over trust funds nationwide remains tied up in the courts. But Tanner expects trust funds to become part of the package offered athletes at colleges.
“At our university, certainly, we will be a part of that (trust fund) when we have the opportunity,” Tanner said.
The panel took no action on Kimpson’s bill on Wednesday.
Kimpson wants to have one more hearing before the legislative session ends in June. He would like to his proposal get a vote when the Legislature meets next year.
USC players families get aid for Final Four trip
Families of players on the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team are getting some extra help to travel to the Final Four in Tampa.
The NCAA is giving $3,000 for players’ families to attend the semifinal game Sunday and another $1,000 if the Gamecocks reach the championship game on Tuesday, USC athletics director Ray Tanner said Wednesday.
The school is reserving hotel rooms for families and then giving them the remaining money to offset other travel costs, said Chris Rogers, who oversees athletics compliance operations at USC.
The NCAA started giving the money to families this year for the first college football playoffs, Tanner said.