Early in August, Irmo native Drew Williams was put on scholarship after two-and-a-half seasons as a walk-on for South Carolina’s football team.
“It’s awesome,” Williams, the starting long snapper, said of earning one of USC’s 85 football scholarships. “You feel like you are really a part of the team. It’s a blessing for sure.”
In the new era of college football, it’s even more of a blessing than before.
Under new NCAA rules designed to share some of the massive revenue from college football and men’s basketball with athletes, college sports’ ruling body has allowed for the first time this year a stipend, which increases the value of an athletics scholarship to the full cost of attendance, a number determined each year by a university’s office of financial aid.
The schools in the SEC and the schools in the other Power Five conferences – Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten and Pacific 12 – have elected to distribute the extra money, and the first payments went out last week at South Carolina. So Williams’ scholarship came with not only pride and financial relief for his family but a check made out to him (or direct deposit, athletes can choose) for $420.10 on Aug. 14.
Williams and other athletes on full scholarship at South Carolina will receive nine more identical checks (four more this semester and five during spring semester) for a total of $4,201 this academic year. Players in sports such as baseball who receive partial scholarships will receive a percentage of the cost of attendance payout equal to their percentage of a scholarship.
South Carolina’s annual stipend of $4,201 is the sixth highest in the SEC, behind schools such as Tennessee ($5,666), Auburn ($5,586) and Alabama ($5,386).
At the bottom in the SEC are Georgia ($2,598) and Kentucky ($2,284).
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said he is happy with the amount USC will compensate players and is not bothered by the varying amounts SEC schools are paying.
“We’re not going to argue or cry about it,” Spurrier said. “If some schools can give a little bit more, so be it.”
USC players such as freshman wide receiver Jerad Washington are excited about the amount they are receiving. “We have been working hard, and we feel like we should get a little reward for it,” he said.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Terry Googer said “a lot” of the players’ talks in the locker room this preseason centered around the money and how they might spend it.
“We struggled last year finding food on the weekends, but I feel like the upgrade in money is going to really help us,” he said.
Googer still was sleeping on a bare mattress last week and planned to buy sheets and a bedspread with part of his first check, he said. Williams’ only purchases so far have been dinner for his family and soccer cleats for his brother, who is a kicker on Dutch Fork’s football team.
“More money is always good,” said senior offensive lineman Will Sport. “It’s not a crazy amount of money, but it’ll help with weekly stuff. A little less money my parents have to give me, basically. That’s all it has changed for me.”
Sport also hasn’t splurged with any of his money, he said.
“It’ll be interesting to see who can save their money and so forth,” Spurrier said. “I hope a lot of the guys will send some of it home and maybe help some of their parents with travel expenses to the game. I hope, but that’s up to them. It’s their money.”
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has expressed concern that an increase in disposable income could lead to trouble for college athletes.
“I’m happy young men get to have a little money in their pocket to do some great things, but you give a young man 18, 19, 20, 21 years old a little bit of pocket change … With a lot of money to make bad decisions, things can go sideways in a New York minute. So you got a kid that’s never had $1,000 in his pocket, and all of a sudden he’s got $2,000, that’s dangerous. That leads to dumb decisions. I think we have to monitor that as coaches and be aware of that.”
The timing is right for the increased payout despite the possible pitfalls, Spurrier believes. He has pushed for players to receive more money for several years.
“They deserve a piece of the pie we all agree, I am sure,” he said. “Gosh, we have to share it with the performers sometimes. We all know the only sport that makes millions of dollars where you don’t have to pay the performers, right? Horse racing.”
Ranking the annual cost of attendance stipends for SEC schools:
- 1. Tennessee $5,666
- 2. Auburn $5,586
- 3. Alabama $5,386
- 4. Mississippi St. $5,126
- 5. Mississippi $4,500
- 6. South Carolina $4,201
- 7. Arkansas $4,002
- 8. Missouri $3,664
- 9. Florida $3,320
- 10. LSU $3,096
- 11. Vanderbilt $2,780
- 12. Texas A&M $2,706
- 13. Georgia $2,598
- 14. Kentucky $2,284
Source: Chronicle of Higher Education