As the major money-making schools in college athletics draw closer to paying student-athletes – or at least providing them “full cost of attendance” scholarships – one South Carolina state senator wants to make paying college athletes a state law.
Under a bill pre-filed by state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina would be required to pay some of their athletes both a weekly stipend and a trust-fund payment upon graduation.
The Charleston Democrat’s bill, pre-filed on Dec. 3, calls for state schools with athletic revenues of at least $50 million – in other words, Clemson and USC – to pay a weekly stipend of about $150 to student-athletes in good academic standing, and to set up a trust fund to pay athletes who graduate and take a financial literacy course.
Kimpson pointed to the athletic department budgets at South Carolina – more than $90 million, according to the latest USA Today figures – and Clemson (almost $70 million) and said it’s about time student-athletes share in the rising revenues.
“The money has to go somewhere. and it’s not going to reduce tuition,” Kimpson said. “It’s being kept in the athletic programs, but it’s not being given to athletes. It’s going to the coaching staffs. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s time to share some of these revenues with the players.”
Clemson ranks fifth in the nation in total salary for its assistant football coaches at almost $4.5 million per year. South Carolina is 19th at about $3.3 million for its football assistants.
“There’s something fundamentally unfair about a university being allowed to profit from someone’s name and likeness, and that person not being able to receive some sort of consideration for that,” Kimpson said.
Kimpson cited the recent cases of Clemson’s freshman quarterback, Deshaun Watson, and former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. Watson played in the Tigers’ win over rival USC with a torn ACL; Lattimore suffered two major knee injuries and was forced to retire from his fledgling NFL career without playing in a regular season game.
“Take a player like Watson; I’m very concerned about his ability to make it through four years in college, let alone going pro,” Kimpson said. “Or a guy like Lattimore, who was significantly injured in college. Those injuries damaged his future ability to earn money.”
Kimpson’s bill, which has been referred to the education committee, would require a stipend based on a minimum-wage salary (he used the figure $7.50) for 20 hours per week, or about $150 per week each semester. It also calls for each school to set up a “student-athlete trust fund” that would provide athletes the sum of $5,000 for each year of good academic standing. Upon graduation and completion of a financial literacy course, the athlete could receive up to $25,000.
Kimpson said his bill currently calls for athletes in football and men’s and women’s basketball to be paid.
“That’s something we’ll look at in committee,” he said. “The bill is intended to apply to student-athletes in the higher revenue-generating sports. That would include men’s and women’s basketball and football. The language of the bill does not include baseball, but this is a discussion point, so nothing is set in stone.”
South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier has long been a proponent of providing some sort of stipend to football and men’s basketball players. In 2011, he proposed a plan to SEC coaches to pay the league’s football players a stipend of $300 per game.
“I really believe sort of the quality of life of college football players and college basketball players should be a bit better,” Spurrier said earlier this year. “These two are the two sports that bring in the enormous money now that we didn’t have 25 years ago.”
Spurrier said the weekend meal money provided to players “runs out pretty fast.”
“I just believe because of the tremendous amount of money they create for our universities and coaches and everybody else, that they should share in it a little bit,” he said.
State Sen. John Courson, chairman of the Senate education committee, said Monday he has not yet seen Kimpson’s bill. The new legislative session begins Jan. 13.