Spurrier proposes new way to pay athletes

DESTIN, Fla. -- Leave it to Steve Spurrier to steal some of the attention away from oversigning.

On Wednesday, South Carolina’s coach dropped a new idea for paying student-athletes -- and it won’t cost the universities a dime (or so he says).

Spurrier proposed that SEC coaches give $300 “out of their own pockets” to 70 football players for each game during the season. The stipend would cover family travel, lodging, food and even a night out with a significant other.

That’s $21,000 a game and $294,000 a season if a team plays 14 games.

“I doubt it will get passed, but us coaches in the SEC, we make all the money -- as do universities and television [networks] -- and we need to give more to our players,” Spurrier said during the second day of the SEC spring meetings.

“We’d like to make that happen. It probably won’t, but we’d love to do it.”

By a bunch of coaches, Spurrier meant seven, including himself, which he read off by name to the media. The six others in favor of Spurrier’s proposal were Alabama coach Nick Saban, Florida’s Will Muschamp, LSU’s Les Miles, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt and Tennessee’s Derek Dooley.

“Now, the other guys didn’t want to talk about it, but those guys, they thought it was a good idea,” Spurrier said.

One of the “other guys” was Kentucky coach Joker Phillips. Phillips said the idea was well received by the coaches, but he wasn’t ready to sign off on it because it wasn’t a standard deal. The importance of the proposal, Phillips said, is that it should stir the debate about helping student-athletes financially.

“One of the things is we had a dialogue with it,” Phillips said. “We’ve talked about having a way to put up money to allow the prospects to get some type of expense money.”

There are a few issues that Spurrier’s plan runs into. For starters, the idea of a major conference paying its athletes outside of the rest of the NCAA won’t happen. Paying athletes is a national topic and can’t be governed by one conference.

“That’s a whole bigger conversation,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

“That’s a national legislation. That involves the cost of attendance. That involves a lot more than us 12 schools in here.

“Coach Spurrier’s desire there is part of that conversation. You just couldn’t do it individually for one sport and you couldn’t do it individually in this league.”

The next debate will come with paying athletes outside of football. Foley said that the only way to effectively pay student-athletes is to incorporate all athletes from all sports. Because of that, he thinks it will be some time before we see extra NCAA-mandated finances for student-athletes.

The bottom line is that not every school can afford to do it and those that can will gain a major competitive edge. Also, giving the SEC a chance to provide prospective athletes with even more incentive to join the conference will put other conferences at more of a competitive disadvantage.

Phillips said the SEC’s play in general puts other conferences at a competitive disadvantage and legislation like this would only enhance that.

“We’ve already won five straight crystal balls,” he said. “People think we have an advantage just being who we are. The SEC, people will look at us a little different, but they already look at us a little different.”

Spurrier’s suggestion won’t come close to flying, but it does echo the sentiments of most of the conference: Student-athletes deserve to be compensated.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive said he’s been in favor of full cost of attendance for student-athletes for a long time and interprets Spurrier’s plan as more of a nice thought that helped stir the debate of paying athletes.

“My reaction was that it was a generous gesture and an expression of his concern,” Slive said. “The bottom line was that the coaches came out in support of the discussion of full cost of attendance.”

At least Spurrier is realistic about the slim chances of his proposal even sniffing legislation, but his interest appears to be in the right place.

Spurrier wants to enhance the well being of his athletes by helping them grab some of the big bucks he and his institutions bathe in.

“I just wish there was a way of giving our players a piece of the pie,” he said. “It’s so huge right now. As you know, 50 years ago, there was no kind of money and the players got full scholarships. Now, they’re still getting full scholarships and the money is in the millions. I don’t know how to get it done, but hopefully there’s a way to get our guys that play football a little piece of the pie.”