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Report: NCAA Pay-for-Play Would Cost $200M Annually

Momentum continues to build for giving collegiate student-athletes extra compensation, but there's one piece of the puzzle that's largely yet to be defined: How much would a pay-for-play program end up costing colleges and universities?

Thanks to Business Insider, we may have an answer. And it has come up with an all-inclusive solution that could subvert any potential recruiting advantages for large schools with booming athletic budgets.

If NCAA Division I student-athletes were reclassified as employees of their universities, thus being made eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program, the total cost of a pay-for-play program for all approximately 167,000 Division I student-athletesRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader would be $202 million, with only $50.6 million coming from the schools, according to Business Insider.

How did the publication arrive at that number? First, it calculated the maximum possible cost of a pay-for-play system under the Federal Work-Study Program. Students in the FWS can work up to 20 hours per week and earn up to $4,000 in the school year and an extra $3,000 in the summer. The federal government typically covers 75 percent of the FWS cost, with schools responsible for the remaining portion.

Assuming that all 167,000 Division I student-athletes earned the entire $7,000, the program would cost roughly $1.17 billion each year, with $876 million being ponied up by the federal government. Since the total FWS available in 2010 was just under $1.2 billion, according to the Department of Education, this plan appears dead on arrival.

But it's not like the average work-study student ends up earning the maximum $7,000 each year. In fact, according to the ED, the average work-study award came out to be $1,524 per student in 2010. So, assuming that Division I student-athletes received the same $1,524 work-study award that other students did, the total cost of the pay-for-play program drops to $255 million, with schools only responsible for $63.6 million.

And considering that 79.5 percent of full-time undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, it's doubtful that every student-athlete would need financial aid. Business Insider took 79.5 percent of $255 million, and determined the approximate cost of a Division I pay-for-play program to be $202 million total. Schools would be responsible for $50.6 million of that.

And since ticket prices to marquee college-football matchups have risen 30 percent in the past three years, according to a recent report from The Oregonian, it's not like the NCAA's coffers are in danger of running dry. One only needs to point to the 14-year, nearly $11 billion contract the NCAA inked with CBS and Turner Sports last year for the TV rights to the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

As Business Insider notes, this pay-for-play plan wouldn't be the cure-all to the wave of corruption that's currently plaguing college football. "Some [players] will always want more no matter how much the NCAA gives them," it says.

But this proposal does dodge two of the main bullets that will dog any potential pay-for-play program. It complies with Title IX (by not restricting extra cash to football and men's basketball players alone) and could be afforded by all schools, not just the top-tier athletic programs.

Now, for the next hurdle to clear: NCAA President Mark Emmert. Earlier this year, Emmert came out in strong opposition to the concept of pay-for-play, saying, "They are student-athletes. They are not our employees, they don't work for us. They are our students, so we don't pay them."

While Emmert appeared willing to listen to a proposal for full-cost, multiyear athletic scholarships for student-athletes earlier this month at his presidents retreat, that appears to be the threshold for extra student-athlete compensation, at least for now.

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