With reforms looming, some Utah college athletes struggling to get by

Tim Goral's picture
Monday, August 18, 2014

His sister, living in Miami, needs bus money to get to school. His brother, playing football at his second junior college in two years, can’t always pay his bills alone. His mother toils at an Atlanta Wal-Mart to support his four younger siblings.

While he was suiting up for Utah State University’s football team, it wasn’t enough for linebacker Tavaris McMillian to perform. He had to provide.

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Photos
(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Although college football is growing as an industry, the players who win the games aren't seeing much of the spoils. Former Utah State University linebacker Tavaris McMillian sends money to his family every month and scrapes by on his scholarship stipend. McMillian, shown in his apartment room Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Logan, is beginning to worry about his finances in the coming months when his scholarship dries up. While athletes do get some perks, many struggle when it comes to paying bills and feeding themselves on their scholarship checks.(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Although college football is growing as an industry, the players who win the games aren't seeing much of the spoils. Former Utah State University linebacker Tavaris McMillian sends money to his family every month and scrapes by on his scholarship stipend. McMillian, shown in his apartment room Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Logan, is beginning to worry about his finances in the coming months when his scholarship dries up. While athletes do get some perks, many struggle when it comes to paying bills and feeding themselves on their scholarship checks.(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Although college football is growing as an industry, the players who win the games aren't seeing much of the spoils. Former Utah State University linebacker Tavaris McMillian sends money to his family every month and scrapes by on his scholarship stipend. McMillian, shown in his apartment room Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Logan, is beginning to worry about his finances in the coming months when his scholarship dries up. While athletes do get some perks, many struggle when it comes to paying bills and feeding themselves on their scholarship checks. (Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Utah State athletics director Scott Barnes poses at midfield at Romney Stadium, Monday, October 10, 2011.(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Utah Athletic Director Dr. Chris Hill explains why the decision was made to fire Jim Boylen in the Huntsman Center Lounge in front of the portraits of former Utah basketball coach Vadal Peterson (left) and former Utah Director of Athletics James Daniel Nielson ( Tom Smart/University of Utah Sports Information)(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune)
University of Utah Athletic Director Chris HIll, left, listens to Alan Sullivan, Investigator for Snell & Wilmer present results of investigation of former University of Utah swim coach Greg Winslow in a press conference in Salt Lake City Tuesday July 2.(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune)
USU head football coach Matt Wells at Romney Stadium in Logan, Thursday, August 1, 2013.
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At a glance
What players receive

Checks vary due to cost of living, but at the University of Utah, athletes on full scholarships will receive 10 checks for $924.60 per month for the 2014-15 school year — up $3 from 2013-14. They can earn two more checks if they are enrolled during summer semester. Those who are married will get $1,103 per month. Many — like Utah’s football players — will see less if their teams opt to funnel that money back into meal options.

Education value

At the University of Utah, the full cost of attendance for an out-of-state student is $25,208 per year. For an in-state student, it’s $7,876. However, as economist Andy Schwarz noted in an editorial on Deadspin.com, this is a list price. The actual cost to the U. of providing a scholarship to a student-athlete may be far lower.

Challenges to current model

At the end of March, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern University had the right to unionize because in all traditional respects, they were engaged in an employee/employer relationship with the private school.

More recently, the NCAA and video game maker Electronic Arts settled with a class of current and former players for tens of millions, and a group of ex-players, headlined by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon, won an injunctive order in U.S. District Court that will, pending appeal, allow players to profit off their likenesses (see story below).

The same judge will also hear one or more cases arguing that the NCAA has unlawfully capped compensation for athletes at the value of an athletic scholarship. The outcome of those cases could create a free market for college athletes.

Then, he’ll need to find a new job.

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