Athletic departments across the country are preparing to make major financial and administrative changes, and Murray State isn’t immune.
At the end of summer, the NCAA passed a new governance system that gives more power to the “Big Five” conferences: the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big 10. This legislation allows these Division 1 schools to make financial and administrative decisions on their own.
Other Division I conferences, such as the OVC, will have the option to adopt or reject legislation the Big Five pass. The OVC and smaller conferences could also decide to leave Big Five decisions up to individual schools.
OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche said there are many layers to the new NCAA governance system and its potential affect on OVC sports.
“We can anticipate – we don’t know for sure – but we can anticipate that one of the first actions the autonomous five will want to take is to expand the value of a scholarship,” she said.
One of the first items on the Big Five agenda is to potentially start providing the “cost of attendance” to student athletes, on top of the athletic scholarships they already receive. The cost of attendance varies from school to school and usually lands between $2,000 and $5,000. At Murray State, cost of attendance is approximately $3,300.
“From the OVC standpoint, we have already talked preliminarily with our presidents to explore and see if this is something we would like to look at that,” DeBauche said. “We’re gathering more information as to what the financial impact of some of that reach would be.”
Murray State Athletic Director Allen Ward said he thinks it will be necessary to address the idea of adding a cost of attendance stipends to scholarships in the OVC soon. In the OVC, Ward expects that men’s and women’s basketball may be the focus of discussion.
“With the recent post-season success by the OVC in the NCAA Tournament, basketball may be impacted the most from a recruiting standpoint,” Ward said. “And then women’s basketball will be part of the discussion to ensure Title IX compliance.”
However, Ward said the discussion will need to include all Division I sports once the OVC knows more about the new governance system.
Ward said many mid-major conferences will likely wait to see what other conferences decide to do when faced with new legislation. If schools of similar size decide to start paying stipends to athletes but Murray State doesn’t, it has the potential to hurt recruitment.
“What they choose to adopt, and what recruiting and competitive advantages that may provide, will be of significant concern for programs like Murray State,” Ward said. “It will be important that we position ourselves to act quickly and strategically for the good of the program.”
If men’s and women’s basketball adopts paying student athletes cost of attendance, it would cost Racer Athletics approximately $95,000 in additional scholarships.
The Chronicle of Higher Education highlighted some of the disparities between the Big Five schools and other Division I institutions – primarily financial support in their budgets. While most Big Five schools have large athletics budgets that don’t depend on university subsidies, the OVC doesn’t share that luxury.
According to study by USA TODAY on NCAA Division I school athletics budgets, Murray State had a steady increase in revenue and expenditures from 2006-11.
More than 72 percent, or approximately $9.8 million of the athletics budget came from subsidies in 2011, which matched almost evenly with all of the other OVC schools.
The athletics budget at the University of Kentucky, however, only had $819,124 in its budget from subsidies, or 1 percent overall. Western Kentucky, which is in the Sun Belt Conference, was still lower than Murray State with 63 percent of its budget coming from university subsidies.
President Bob Davies said he understands the need to have competitive sports at Murray State, while also making sure the athletes maintain academic standards. Davies hopes the decisions will be left to the institutional level instead of at the OVC.
“I don’t want the OVC to come in and say, ‘you shall do this,’” Davies said. “I firmly believe this is an institutional decision … we need to watch it closely because it does have a pricetag.”
Story by Lexy Gross, Editor-in-Chief