University of Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams confused the facts in several news stories recently regarding NCAA rules on paying student-athletes and the revenue generated from the men’s basketball tournament. The NCAA returns 96 cents of every dollar generated from the tournament (and all of its other revenue) to its members in a variety of ways. These include direct distributions to schools and conferences, funding for programs and other assistance that benefit student-athletes ($54 million distributed this year), and supporting the other 87 NCAA championships that provide participation opportunities for 54,000 student-athletes each year. It is the NCAA member institutions, via the governance structure, that determine how resources are allocated.
What Williams proposes as paying student-athletes in the so-called revenue sports $200 a month -- or about $2,400 a year -- could be accomplished by increasing the amount of a full grant-in-aid. Indeed, the Division I membership -- and that's where the decision would have to be made -- has looked at doing just that from time to time. To date proposals to increase the amount of a full grant-in-aid have not gained much traction with the membership. The problem isn't whether the money that passes through the NCAA to membership could be used for this purpose. The issue is whether a majority of the Division I membership would vote to use these dollars or others for this purpose. The opportunity for any member to propose such a change is always available.