One of the findings of the NCAA vs. Alston case, in which the US Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that the value of academic achievement in college athletic scholarships had been wrongly limited, was that the NCAA changed its rules to include payments of up to $5,980 per year for scholarship players for academic achievement.
In a recent report by ESPN, only 22 of the 130 FBS Division I football-playing schools had announced plans to make such payments. Five Big 12 schools had plans to start payments, including Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech, according to the list. None of the four schools set to join the league in the next few years are on the list.
WVU announced Monday that it will join this group and provide additional financial support to its grantees, with some appropriate qualification rules attached.
To receive the additional payments, which are paid once a year at the end of the spring semester, WVU student-athletes must be on scholarship, be academically eligible, be free from misconduct, and not be in the transfer portal. Student athletes must be enrolled at WVU for a full year before receiving payment.
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As WVU noted in its announcement of its payment program, “Each institution can determine its level of financial contribution and set its own academic performance standards for payment. At the Big 12 conference, the board voted to allow its members to pay up to the full annual amount ($5,980) in educational benefits to student-athletes receiving sports-related assistance in all sports.”
West Virginia, like a number of schools, will not pay $5,980 to every eligible student-athlete each year. According to projections, the financial burden for this would be higher than the sports department could bear right away. Instead, the WVU has developed a system in which it makes payments based on whether or not the student-athlete receives a full or partial scholarship, with each coach and sports administrator having the discretion to allocate the amount paid. Several points play a role here as to how WVU will allocate its payments.
- If a student-athlete is awarded a full scholarship, the full amount of $5,980 will be paid, again assuming the student-athlete meets the eligibility requirements listed above. At WVU, student athletes in soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and tennis fall into this category.
- In all other sports where partial scholarships are routinely permitted, a percentage of $5,980, equal to the percentage of the scholarship awarded to a student-athlete, is used as the base amount. For example, a student athlete on a Quarter Scholarship would be eligible to receive $1,495 per year.
There is a twist to the methodology WVU uses when awarding partial scholarships. The head coach and sports administrator in each sport may change the award amount to be slightly higher or lower than the base amount, but may not exceed the total allocation for their sport, which is based on the number of grant equivalents multiplied by $5,980.
Using baseball as an example, which allows for a maximum of 11.7 grants, head coach Randy Mazey and sports administrator Matt Wells have a total pool of $69,966 to award each year to those who receive some type of grant assistance. That’s 11.7 x $5,980. However, they may elect to award a player more or less than their base amount, but may not exceed $69,966 in any year.
College Athletic Scholarship Limits by Sport
None of this comes cheap, of course. Beginning in the 2021-22 academic year, West Virginia will invest $1.5 million annually in the Mountaineer Academic Incentive Program to fund these payments. If it ever chose to fund each grantee, in whole or in part, with the possibility of paying $5,980 per year, the financial challenge would be far greater.
Like many schools, WVU faces the loss or at least the diversion of some donations to its general and sporting funds as the establishment of collectives like Country Roads Trust will undoubtedly take some funds away from the schools. While the establishment of collectives to fund the NIL effort and new funding for scholarships and academic awards must occur, this will put even more pressure on schools to fund more and more expenses to keep their programs competitive.