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Penn State Football: Power 5 Cost-of-Attendance Payout May Be Thousands Per Athlete

by on August 07, 2014 11:40 PM

The power the NCAA gave to the Power 5 conferences on Thursday could put an extra $2,000 to $5,000 per year in the pocket of a Penn State athlete on a full scholarship.

And that’s based on Penn State’s own numbers for all its students.

The money would be to cover an athlete's cost of attendance (COA) – expenses beyond tuition, fees, books and room and board, all of which are paid for when an athlete has a full scholarship.

Not covered are such things as transportation to and from campus, laundry, personal care items, insurance and recreation.

Right now, athletic scholarships at Penn State – and all schools – do not cover COA. It’s likely that one of the first measures the Power 5 will pass is paying full cost-of-attendance stipends to all scholarship athletes, not just those in revenue-generating sports like football and basketball. Field hockey, fencing and soccer will probably get cold COA cash as well.

That was a big concern of Penn State football coach James Franklin, who addressed the potential disparity at his very first Coaches Caravan stop at Pegula Ice Arena on May 1. 

“I think a lot of times when things are being discussed and talked about it’s football specific and it shouldn’t be,” Franklin said. “What I want to make sure is that the decisions we make are going to allow student-athletes -- women, men -- great opportunities to come get an education and play great sports.”

How much that COA payment would be and who gets it are still very much up in the air. But in a June 19 story on, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon estimated it at $3,000 a year per athlete on full scholarship.

FROM $2,200 TO $4,788

At Penn State, the COA at University Park for Joe Average Student varies based on where you look on the Web:

-- Penn State’s “College Cost Calculator,” an online resource for Penn State students and their parents, puts those additional costs at $2,200 per academic year and includes “transportation, laundry, clothing, dining out, utilities, and medical, dental, personal and recreational expenses.”

-- The Penn State Office of Student Aid, on its website, notes that for the average student, “you may incur additional costs for transportation and personal expenses, estimated between $3,800 and $4,000 per year.”

-- Penn State’s “Student Aid Summary” obviously differs for every student. But it is consistent in putting dollar figures on the “Estimated Cost of Attendance.” And those numbers are $1,566 per academic year for transportation and another $3,222 for miscellaneous expenses. In total, that’s $4,788.

“How much?” It’s the Million Dollar Question.

Penn State had 815 athletes – 471 men, 344 women – participate in varsity athletics in 2012-13, according to its most recent report to the U.S. Dept. of Education. PSU did not have to delineate how many were on scholarship. But according to NCAA limits on scholarships by sport and gender – i.e., 9.9 for wrestling, 15 for women’s basketball, 13 for men’s basketball – the maximum number of scholarships Penn State can currently give, based on its 31 varsity sports and the NCAA sanctions on football, is 354.9. (That’s 196.9 for men and 158 for women.)

If each scholarship athlete got a brand new annual COA payment of $3,000, the measure would add over $1 million to Penn State athletics’ expense ledger. (Not all athletes get a full ride, but it’s possible an athlete on half-scholarship could get a half-COA payment. Or maybe more.)

That million dollars is just about the gap between what Penn State’s 98 head and assistant coaches were paid in 2012-13 -- $15.9 million – and the amount of student aid all its several hundred athletes received, which was $14.8 million. It’s two years later and coaches’ salaries are even higher, powered by Franklin’s $4.3 million per year.

No matter what the payout to scholarship athletes, the Big Ten can afford it. The conference’s annual payment per school is about $27 million. In four years, with a new TV contract and the continued growth of the Big Ten Network, it should skyrocket to an estimated $44.5 million per school.


Penn State president Eric Barron and new athletic director Sandy Barbour, who officially begins Aug. 18, will have a hand in determining the COA number, whether it’s through the Power 5, the Big Ten or on an individual campus basis. When Barbour’s hiring was announced nearly three weeks ago, both said they were in favor paying a cost-of-attendance stipend to Penn State’s athletes.

“I believe that student-athletes ought to have access to cost of attendance,” said Barbour, a collegiate athlete and coach before heading into administration. “I have been part of the governance structure that pushed for that. I stood up at the convention four years ago and advocated for it.”

Both Barron and Barbour are adamantly opposed to college athletes forming a union and bargaining collectively, as the football players at Northwestern are fighting to do.

“I do not believe that unionization has any place in college athletics,” said Barbour, who was the athletic director at both Tulane and Cal Berkeley before coming to Penn State. “Our student-athletes are students; they're not professionals. We're going to be about students and about students first.”

Added Barron: “I’m not a fan of unionization. I think it would be a mistake. We’re here for the student experience. And athletics is a wonderful part of the student experience. So we want to do it really well. But we’re not here to have people come in the door and go out the door and not get their education.

“We need more of a focus on the student-athlete, because you have a limited number of presidents and they all have to look at each other in the eye and say, ‘We’re not a mini-NFL.’ We’re here to make sure these students are successful and come to agreement on that. This is another reason why I like the Big Ten proposal that even if you did go into the pros, you could at any time come back and get your degree and still have it paid for. I think that’s a strong message that you want this focused on the student-athlete.”


Franklin was a student-athlete on the Division II level at East Stroudsburg. And, even though he was a standout quarterback, he wouldn’t receive a COA dime if he was playing today at ESU, which is far from a Power 5 school. And he’s OK with that.

“Let me first say this, people consider me young -- which I think is interesting because I’ve been coaching for 20 years,” Franklin said back in May. “But, I would say I have an old soul and I’m old school when it comes to college athletics and student-athletes. I played at East Stroudsburg, and we’d get on the bus and drive 13 hours to play and pull over to the side of the road and eat a soggy hoagie and a Snickers bar.

“I think student athletes should be unbelievably appreciative of having an opportunity to come to a place like Penn State, I really do. I also am sensitive and I’m concerned because I think a lot of the decisions are made based on football. I think that’s troubling because these decisions need to be made on what’s in the best interest for all of our student-athletes.

“We have so many great sports here at Penn State and my concern is that some of the decisions would affect that long term. I think there are some things that the NCAA can do that’s going to be in the best interest of student-athletes and I think we’re all in support of that, doing whatever we can. But I also don’t want to do anything that's going to affect other sports and other student-athletes’ opportunities long-term. We’ve seen sports being cut and things like that, and I think we just have to be very careful with the decisions we make.”

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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