In July of 2021, the NCAA finally allowed student-athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). The floodgates opened immediately and athletes from every sport were signing NIL deals big and small. However, since bigger names and athletes in higher-profile sports were getting disproportionate amounts of money, the NCAA subsequently decided to allow each school to award every athlete a comparatively small stipend of $2,990 a semester, or just less than $6,000 a year.
What’s notable about that stipend is how and who is receiving it. In the SEC, schools are being allowed to provide that money to football and basketball players for education-based benefits such as computers and internships. At the University of Texas, every athlete in every sport, scholarship-athlete or walk-on, is being provided the stipend. In fact, it’s expected that every Division I school will begin paying some or all of their athletes $6,000 a year.
Keeping Up A Competitive Balance
So where is all this money coming from? At schools with enormous athletic programs like Texas and Ohio State, $6,000 per athlete is barely noticeable in the budget. But, for other schools that may lack the donor base or athletic budgets of bigger schools, paying some or all of their athletes can eat up a big part of the budget. And, in the name of keeping up with the competition, if the big schools are providing that stipend, the small schools will have to do so as well.
In other words, if a football or basketball program wants to be seen on equal footing with the bigger schools in the eyes of a recruit, then they’ll also have to offer that $6,000, regardless of their athletic department budget. And remember, that $6,000 may just be the minimum payment since you can bet some schools will be more generous to their athletes than others.
The Cost of That Competition
For many college athletic departments, revenues lost during the pandemic required significant budget cuts. So how will schools that don’t have huge athletic money streams pay to keep up with the Ohio States and Alabamas? Early on, it appears that money is coming from reducing the roster sizes of other, non-revenue producing sports.
So what does that mean for a potential high school recruit? If you’re aiming for a spot in an equivalency sport (non-revenue producing sports that primarily offer partial scholarships) at a Division I school, your opportunities to land on the team, either on scholarship or as a walk-on, maybe fewer. In addition, as those athletes who lose roster spots at larger schools trickle down to other programs, landing a spot at a smaller school might get more difficult too.
Will Stipends Make It More Difficult To Get Recruited?
Because there are plenty of variables in play, the best answer to that question is “maybe.” The NCAA has only allowed NIL deals since July of 2021, and thus far, there’s been little regulation. Stipends from schools directly to athletes The consensus is, at some point, the rule may be revisited to tone down what many are calling the “Wild West” in college sports.
In the short term, it is expected that smaller athletic programs may cut roster spots on some non-revenue teams to even out their budgets. Other programs may keep the same roster sizes, but reduce the amount of scholarship funding, meaning fewer scholarship opportunities. But not every school will make the same cuts to the same sports. Given that, the effects of NILs on your recruiting may hinge on the sport you play and the schools you’re considering.
Does the long-term outlook present even more questions? Will the NCAA ultimately regulate how much stipend money each school provides to its athletes? Will athletic departments adjust their budgets and ultimately restore the funding that was cut from their programs, and thus return rosters to their previous numbers? Will athletes who would have walked on at a bigger program instead opt for scholarship opportunities at smaller schools? Throw in the NCAA’s new one-time transfer rule and the added year of eligibility granted to athletes during the pandemic, and college rosters may also fill up faster with older athletes and fewer high school recruits.
Ultimately, the effect of the athlete stipend on recruiting will be different for every high school recruit. To minimize the impact on your recruiting, do your homework and research the programs you’re considering. Keep an eye out for programs that have reduced rosters. Look at previous and current rosters to see if spots are being filled by high school recruits or transfers. Remember that your odds at long-shot schools may now be even longer. Finally, regardless of your sport or your recruiting process, don’t let NILs or stipend money be the deciding factor in your choice. Focus on the school and athletic program that provides you the best fit, not the school that offers a few more dollars.
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