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NCAA Approves Payments Up to $2000 to Athletes, Tie Postseason Appearances to APR

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The NCAA has worked with uncharacteristic speed to approve rules proposals, some of which we looked at a little while ago.

The NCAA's story buries the lede a bit. The biggest change here is that athletes on full scholarships can get now "additional aid" of the full cost of attendance or $2000, whichever is less. Call it "aid" if you want, but it's an additional payment beyond tuition, meal plans, housing and other standard forms of benefits athletes get now. It will be tied to the consumer price index so that the NCAA doesn't have to micromanage changes due to inflation.

This is effectively a salary that scholarship athletes will be able to earn for playing sports. It's nowhere near market value for what revenue sport athletes could get if there was a free market, but it's more than what athletes have gotten in the past. The work the NCAA uses is "meaningful":

The working group that made the recommendation told the board the $2,000 figure is meaningful in addressing the miscellaneous expenses student-athletes now have. Institutions will not be required to offer the benefit, but conferences are encouraged to consider common application within their membership.

That passage indicates that this new "aid" payment is optional, but it won't actually be for anyone who wants to land the best athletes out there.

The other big rule change is that schools must have an Academic Progress Rate score of at least 930 to participate in postseason play. It will be phased in between now and 2015-16, the first year the full 930 will be required. Nine bowl participants would have been ineligible last year, which would have meant there wouldn't be enough teams to fill all the bowls. The national champ UConn would have been ineligible for March Madness as well.

These are two huge rulings from the NCAA. The pay-for-play genie is officially out of the bottle, and the flawed APR will be able to keep teams out of bowls and tournaments.


Something I missed the first time around is this little nugget:

The Board also approved multi-year grants up to the full term of eligibility, though one-year grants will remain the minimum

Translation: schools can offer multi-year scholarships now. Currently, all scholarships are merely one-year agreements. This will be a fascinating market to watch: will recruits pick less prestigious schools if offered a longer scholarship than what the powerhouse is offering? In other words, might someone pick Mississippi State over Alabama if the former offers a four-year scholarship and the latter only offers one? Now combine it with the new "aid" payment: would an athlete pick Goliath University for $2000 and a one-year scholarship or Underdog University who can't afford the $2000 but offers a four-year scholarship?

It's a particularly interesting new rule given the recent media coverage of oversigning and roster management.

There are various other new rules too, like giving former athletes who are out of eligibility financial aid to return to school to complete their degrees. Read the whole thing for everything, but I think I pulled out the highlights.