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Athletics wants to pay players more

As the NCAA nears the date it will likely finalize a policy revision allowing universities to pay its full-scholarship athletes more, Weber State University’s athletics director is asking for $30,000 in student fees to help the men’s and women’s basketball programs stay competitive in recruiting.

The NCAA is expected to approve a measure in April that will allow universities to pay their full-scholarship athletes an additional $2,000 expense allowance yearly, said WSU President Ann Millner, who sits on the Division 1 Board for the NCAA and the executive committee for the NCAA.

Millner said the expected measure is being driven forward by large institutions that argue the current scholarship money available to student athletes isn’t adequate for their needs or reflective of their contribution to their schools.

“The difference in budgets for Division 1 schools varies dramatically,” Millner said. “For smaller institutions with smaller budgets, it’s more of a challenge.”

Every university will have to decide if it wants to finance the increase and, if so, how. Athletics director Jerry Bovee asked the Student Fee Recommendation Committee for $30,000 to help finance the $56,000 it will cost to make the adjustment.

“From our institutional standpoint, we’ve got to keep up with the Joneses, obviously, and make that available to our student athletes as well,” said Randy Rahe, the WSU men’s basketball head coach. “If you don’t, in recruiting you’ll get hurt badly.”

Rahe said a university’s decision of whether or not to pay its full-scholarship athletes the additional $2,000 is a major factor in attracting the best athletes. Staying competitive in recruiting is pivotal for success on the hardwood, and keeping a competitive men’s basketball team is a priority, Bovee said.

“Our priority right now is to keep our competitiveness on the basketball side,” Bovee said. “When kids get into deciding ‘do I go here, do I go there’, they’re looking at all they have offered to them. If someone’s offering it and we’re not, it’s just one more little issue that gets in the way of being able to compete in a recruiting sense.”

Bovee said he’s spoken with other athletic departments in the Big Sky Conference and fully expects them to take advantage of the anticipated increase to pay student athletes more.

Bovee affirmed Millner’s statement that the impetus for the increase is driven by big schools, or schools competing in Bowl Championship Series football conferences like the Pacific 10.

The extra scholarship money can only be paid to head-count sports, or sports required to pay student athletes a full scholarship amount. Right now, Bovee said, that amount is about $10,000 for in-state athletes and $19,000 for out-of-state athletes.

Bovee said the amount only covers tuition, books, housing and food. The additional $2,000 would provide a little spending money.

In head-count sports, each scholarship athlete must be paid the same amount as his or her teammates. Therefore, the $2,000 increase per athlete the NCAA is expected to approve must be paid to each student athlete on a given team, or it cannot be paid at all. Between men’s and women’s basketball, that totals $56,000.

The Student Fee Recommendation Committee, which essentially decides how increases in student fees are spent each year, will have another meeting to hear requests this Friday before deliberating and deciding in the following weeks.

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