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Extra Scholarship Money for NCAA Athletes? Not So Fast...

At the end of October, the NCAA approved a wave of changes for the benefit of student-athletes, including one that would allow conferences to offer up to $2,000 extra in scholarship money to athletes each year.

Now, the fate of that new rule remains uncertain, leaving high school student-athletes hoping to receive extra scholarship money in limbo.

Ninety-seven schools have signed a petition asking the NCAA to override the measure at January's annual NCAA convention, according to an Associated Press report from Wednesday. (Only 75 signatures were needed for the override challenge.)

If 125 schools sign the petition by Dec. 26, the new stipend will automatically be eliminated, the AP reports.

Why did the NCAA pass the stipend measure in the first place? One 2010 study from the National College Players Association estimated that athletic scholarships, which cover only tuition, room and board, and books, leave students paying roughly $3,000 out of pocket each year (depending, of course, on which school they're attending).

After discussing the possibility of a stipend at a two-day presidents' retreat over the summer, the NCAA board of directors implemented it on Oct. 27.

Remember, though, that just because the NCAA would allow conferences to offer the "full-cost" scholarships didn't mean they had to follow through.

Sure, you could argue that any conference that didn't offer their student-athletes extra scholarship money would be at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting, but is that much different from the current discrepancies between, say, Ohio State University and Ohio University, for example?

A Lucky Few?

Here's where the potential revocation of the stipend gets tricky.

David Berst, the Division I vice president of governance, told the AP that somewhere around 1,000 high school student-athletes signed letters-of-intent with their future colleges in November, with the understanding that they'd be receiving an extra $2,000 of scholarship money.

Even if the stipend plan gets revoked by virtue of 125 schools signing on to the petition, Berst told the AP that the student-athletes who already signed would still receive their extra money.

"We would honor the agreements that have taken place," Berst said. "So even if you were to rescind the rule as of Dec. 26 and not operate under that rule in the future, we would honor those agreements. I think that causes the board to redouble its efforts at the January meeting."

The NCAA did not immediately respond with a comment to an Education Week inquiry about the petition.

Christine Brennan of USA Today, who originally tweeted the news about the petition, suggested that a good bit of opposition to the stipend could stem from the fact that only 22 of 331 Division I athletic departments turned a profit last year.

As Brennan tweeted, "Football does not pay for field hockey, folks."

Berst appeared to confirm that theory to the AP, noting that most of the opposition to the stipend came from Football Championship Subdivision schools (aka, schools in "mid-major" conferences) and schools without football teams.

If the petition doesn't get the 125 signatures required to automatically revoke the measure, the Division I board will be forced to take the proposal up at its annual convention in January. At the convention, the board could rescind the stipend, modify the rule, or allow member schools to vote on the override, according to the AP.

Stay tuned ... this appears to only just be getting started.

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