Opinion: BYU levels playing field with big COA

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SALT LAKE CITY — The gap between student and athlete just took a gigantic step. Some argue that it’s the wrong direction and others that it was an inevitable one, but on Aug. 1, 2015, institutions will start paying for more than just school.

The particulars are pretty simple. Full-ride athletes typically receive a scholarship for tuition and room and board, as well as books and student fees.

The NCAA agreed to let institutions pay an additional cost of attendance. This additional money can be used at the athlete’s discretion. Pizza, mobile phone bills, clothes, and date night will be covered by this COA — or at least as far as the money stretches.

BYU beat writer Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune reported that BYU will pay $4,500 for this yearly stipend. This amount ranks in the top 10 percent of COA-paying universities.

The University of Utah is offering $3,574, nearly $1,000 less than BYU. And Utah State is offering $3,700, $800 less than the Cougars.

BYU isn’t just keeping up with the Joneses, it is Mr. and Mrs. Jones.

It’s the kind of grassroots effort that levels the recruiting playing field for BYU.

As a football independent, BYU is not part of the Power Five conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12) and doesn't share in the enormous multimillion-dollar annual windfall that college football provides. In the past, that has been a huge recruiting disadvantage; P5 schools can afford bigger and better everything for their programs — better locker and weight rooms, advanced training and practice facilities and more and better food among other things.

The one thing that those millions upon millions couldn’t do was end up in the pockets of the athletes. The institutions got rich, while the athletes went hungry — both literally and figuratively. A generous COA eases some of the athlete’s financial burden.

Does this discrepancy in stipend make a difference to a recruited athlete?

You bet it does. At least in my family it did.

My father was recruited by BYU and Utah. An excellent multi-sport athlete and state basketball champion at Davis High School, he wore more letters than a first-grade teacher. But his true love was baseball. He was every pitching coach’s dream, a 6-foot-4, flame-throwing right-hander. He chose Utah over BYU because the Utes offered $10 more a month in laundry money.

Settle down, I didn’t say laundered money. This wasn’t a shady under-the-table kind of thing. He was a university-employed assistant manager, and the few extra dollars made the difference.

There are a lot of valid questions and concerns about giving athletes a COA that I don’t want to tackle.

The point is simple, a superior COA is a major selling point and will make a major impact on recruiting. While BYU suffers playing outside of the Power Five, this generous COA will help the Cougars stay competitive while the P5 monopoly sorts itself out.

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Dave Noriega


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