COA scholarships to provide advantage for some SEC schools
Unless you've been stranded on a non-internet-connected island for the past year or two, you're probably aware that player compensation has become one of the more talked-about and divisive issues in college sports.
You're also probably aware that, starting with the 2015-16 school year, student-athletes will have access to additional funds that they didn't have before; rather than just the cost of tuition and room and board, which previously set the limit for NCAA scholarships, athletes can now receive up to the full cost of attendance (which also includes costs for transportation, books, etc.) from any school willing to offer it.
It's expected that the full-cost-of-attendance offers will become commonplace among Power 5 programs, but that doesn't mean that all offers will be equal, or even closely comparable. Every school determines its own full cost of attendance based on a number of factors, so the amount offered as part of the full-cost scholarship will vary from school to school.
And as pointed out by The Montgomery Advertiser, this will be a good thing for some SEC schools ... and a not-so-good thing for others.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Tennessee ($5,666), Auburn ($5,586) and Mississippi State ($5,126) rank first, second and fourth among all Power 5 schools in terms of highest cost of attendance, which means a recruit accepting a full-cost scholarship at one of those schools would have access to additional funding (read: spending money). Georgia and Kentucky, meanwhile, rank 13th and 14th in the SEC at a little over $2,000 each, which offers a hint as to why the two schools voted against the cost-of-attendance proposal during the conference's summer meetings.
Other SEC schools that will benefit include Ole Miss (11th-highest cost of attendance nationally), South Carolina (14th), Arkansas (16th) and Missouri (20th).
For a breakdown of how the costs are determined by the school -- not the athletic department -- click here for a thorough explanation from Auburn's Mike Reynolds, the university's executive director of student financial services.
But on the football side of things, while some coaches see a potentially advantageous situation that could prove to be a major benefit in recruiting, others see a discrepancy that just doesn't look fair.
The following is from Nick Saban, whose Alabama program ranks 12th in the SEC in cost-of-attendance expenses:
"You can't create a system that really almost can promote fraud, because every institution should do a good job of saying this is what our cost of attendance is, but when we don't have a cap that makes it equal for everyone, it really is going to go against all the things that we've tried to do in the NCAA in terms of having parity for players in terms of what their scholarship (is), what you're allowed to give them and all those types of things."
Mark Richt, meanwhile, whose Georgia program is at even more of a disadvantage, said over the summer that the discrepancies are "not a good thing at all" and that he was "curious to know how (schools) get to those numbers."
Cost of attendance has been a factor in financial aid for years and is overseen by each university's board of regents, so there's not much mystery in terms of how it's calculated (see the link above for the details on Auburn's calculation). Accordingly, it's unlikely that athletic scholarships are going to substantially alter the equation going forward.
But the cost-of-attendance funds themselves will alter the equation, and with varying aid amounts soon to be available, the effects on recruits and their decision-making processes -- as well as the programs that find themselves in advantageous or disadvantageous positions in terms of funds to offer -- will be worth watching.
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