TU’s Next-Toughest Foe: Cost of Attendance

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 31:  Detailed view of the American conference logo on the field prior to a game between the Tulane Green Wave and the Cincinnati Bearcats at Yulman Stadium on October 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The calendar says Temple’s next foe is Penn State on Sept. 5, but the toughest foe over the long haul could prove to be something called Cost of Attendance.

As many as 13 years ago, the schools from the larger conferences decided that there were too many schools in what was then known as Division I-A. They pushed through a NCAA rule in 2002 that required a 15,000 annual average attendance for three consecutive years to remain at that level. While some schools dropped their programs, more upgraded and that rule did not significantly change the landscape.

Failure to cull the herd of teams wanting to be part of the now Football Bowl Series (FBS), the Power 5 essentially separated itself from the rest of the teams now known as the Group of Five. Simply put, all of the championship bowl criteria are slanted to the P5 teams, the teams from the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10 and PAC-12.

Now a new means of separating the haves from the have-nots is something called cost of attendance, a stipend per athlete that should drive the wedge further between the P5 and the G5 schools and that threatens the very foundation of college football. That goes into effect this season.

Get used to seeing just all of the teams from the Power 5 conferences on TV even more and get used to rarely seeing the other teams. Athletes who previously were open in their recruitment to all the schools now will limit their focus to Power 5 teams and that is terrible news for any fan of fair play. It was exciting to see Utah, once a non-P5 team, win the Sugar Bowl or even Hawaii appear in one. As recently as 1998 Tulane went unbeaten but forget that ever happening again.

Temple now is in the same boat as the Tulanes and Hawaiis of the world in terms of competing, without a built-in weather advantage. The BOT hasn’t released a COA for Temple athletes, but for the Owls to compete, it must be in line with at least their fellow American Athletic Conference foes. ECU announced in April that its COA will be $4,025. Memphis will be $4,467. Figures were not released on other AAC schools, but Temple fans have reason to be concerned because BOT Chairman Patrick J. O’Connor–a Villanova grad–has said repeatedly in the past that Temple would not get caught up in a college football arm’s race. COAs are to college football what ICBMs were once to the Cold War.

The big five conferences collected a combined $311 million last year just from bowl games and NCAA tournament payouts and now have used that muscle to obtain a separate set of rules that has allowed them to pay players a so-called full cost of attendance.

The SEC is leading the way with three of the top four COAs. Penn State leads the Big 10 by giving its athletes $4,788 to play while a similar in-state institution, Pitt, can afford only $3,300. Forget a player ever picking Pitt over Penn State in that scenario or even a fellow Big 10 institution like Rutgers, which has set its COA at $2,921.

The schools that feel the larger pinch will be those at even lower levels, like the Kent States of the MAC or the Marshalls of CUSA. Marshall was a feel-good story of a year ago, challenging for a BCS bowl game until an upset loss to Western Kentucky at the end of last year.

College football needs those kind of stories more than it needs these COAs and that’s why college presidents who value education over football should put their foot down and end this unhealthy play-to-play trend. Only the presidents can change this and getting rid of this unequal system would be a statement that they are more serious about education than sports.

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11 thoughts on “TU’s Next-Toughest Foe: Cost of Attendance

  1. it seems like every time this program starts to generate momentum it get a reality slap right in the face…, ‘poor’ Temple…, my bet it will be under $3K

    • Is the stipend given to every athlete or just those playing revenue generating sports? Sounds to me that if everyone isn’t receiving it, lawsuits will fly and if they are successful, the stipends will stop especially given that most college athletic programs already operate in the red.

  2. I would add that the necessity of the stipend has been exacerbated by the fact that college sports are year round. When I went to school, football and basketball players weren’t pushed to stay on campus during the summer and could go home and work, thereby earning money to get them through the school year. .

  3. Anybody who thinks the presidents will care about anything more than money are kidding themselves. For the big, rich schools that COA is a drop in the bucket and will probably get paid for by some wealthy alumni anyway – no real cost to the schools themselves. Totally different story for Temple. The NCAA should be ashamed of themselves, but the only thing they care about is money too. And kj, Temple certainly has plenty of those reality slaps – more than maybe any other school. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer – the American way, even in college sports. Maybe one positive is that the P5 conference schools have already been getting the vast majority of the “cream of the crop” recruits anyway, so maybe it won’t effect things that much (wishful thinking?).

  4. Louisville went from the AAC to the ACC, and it will be one of the top stipend schools in the nation at over $5k per student athlete this year…, what are they doing that we aren’t doing? similar situation, urban school playing in the shadow of the state favorite.., but just look at what they have accomplished in the last 5 years…, someone in Temple athletics told me we are 10 years behind Louisville in terms of program development…, this is un*%ckin’ believable..,

  5. Mike, it’s time to blow up the NCAA and college sports altogether. It has never been clean and now because of the influx of TV money, the problems are ten times worse. ESPN and the conference-centric cable networks have upped the ante for schools that merely want D-1 sports and are not in a top five conference because they’ve given those schools a financial advantage that cannot be matched at schools not in those conferences. Even the schools in the top five conferences have made moves contrary to the interests of all of their athletes by joining conferences that span half of the country. The missed school time because of extended trips makes it extremely difficult for any student to major in the STEM fields. The trips also affect the marginal student as well because they can’t afford to miss any school time. I’m becoming more disillusioned each passing day and wonder how long any of it will last. I do know that if a la carte cable comes to pass ESPN will be in real trouble because a large number of people don’t watch or want it especially because it garners the most money per subscriber from the cable companies. A la carte cable will decimate that source of money and may cause all schools to rethink their positions. .

    • I want a la carte cable. Too many crappy channels I never watch. I can’t believe there’s a Mummer’s Channel, but there it is at 252 on my TV. I’d rather sub cbs sports (which I don’t get) for that.

  6. Temple needs revenue. Kraft, Clark, and Theobald were not hired for their looks but rather for their financial and planning skills. Selling the naming rights to Liacouras Center would raise close to $1 million per year in cash.

  7. PS. We need to stop supporting pro sports in Philly. Sorry, but the Phillies are the biggest losers in sports history. The Sixers are a ship of fools, and the Flyers have joined the “wranks” of bottom dwellers. The Eagles have never won a Superbowl and haven’t won a Championship in 55 years.

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