Is the NCAA close to handing out ‘stipends’ through an alternative method?

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One of the hot-button topics regarding the NCAA in recent years has been whether or not student-athletes should be paid. Whether it’s by way of a basic stipend or a raise in the value of a scholarship so it meets the full cost of attendance, there’s no shortage of opinions on the topic.

From a legislative standpoint those in favor of the stipend, with NCAA president Mark Emmert being one of the proponents, have found the going tough in regards to getting it written into law.

But according to John Infante of CollegeSportsScholarships.com, the NCAA may have found another way in which they can add a little something extra to the value of an athletic scholarship.

Another change has occurred with little notice and even less opposition. Proposal RWG-16-7 deregulated expenses in conjunction with practice and competition, most notably removing limits on meals during road trips and the NCAA’s limits on when teams can leave and when they must return from away games. But it also removes this language:

16.8.1.9 Apparel for Community Service or Team Travel. An institution may provide a student-athlete with one shirt (e.g., polo, oxford style) bearing the institution’s logo to be used for team travel or other events at which he or she is representing the institution. The shirt may bear a single manufacturer’s or distributor’s normal trademark or logo not to exceed 2 1/4 square inches in area, including any additional materials surrounding the normal trademark or logo.

What does this mean? According to Infante, removing 16.8.1.9 would deregulate travel clothing for student-athletes, meaning that there would be no limit on the amount of clothing athletes receive.

And with the above paragraph noting the possibility of removing the limits placed on the number of meals programs can provide their scholarship athletes, programs would be able to take care of the most basic needs of their athletes.

Since schools are already allowed to give scholarship athletes electronic “learning aids” such as iPads and the like, could similar allowances for food and clothing be on the way? If so, that would result in scholarship athletes receiving benefits never realized under the NCAA’s “amateur” model.

Imagine then an athlete who is on a full grant-in-aid and a Pell Grant, which at most schools would exceed the cost of attendance. If the athlete lives off-campus, he would receive a room and board stipend, but would potentially never have to buy food. That would allow him to pocket the entire board stipend, up to $4,000 a year at some schools. No matter what sport this athlete plays, he can also now be employed at his school’s camps, allowing him to earn a couple thousand dollars each summer. That would get close to the figures tossed around in many stipend scenarios, of between a couple hundred and $1,000 per month.

While this possibility may not satisfy the demands of those who want scholarship athletes to either be paid or receive a “concrete” stipend, having a food allowance that wouldn’t count against the cost of the scholarship would be a nice perk.

But as with everything else when it comes to NCAA legislation, the question is whether or not the membership will sign off on a change of this magnitude.

And with the many different viewpoints within the NCAA, that’s not a lock.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.