Student athlete stipends:Use the money to get out of the hole

Published on June 1, 2015.
Published on June 1, 2015.

Student athletes at the University of Hawai‘i may start receiving stipends in the fall semester, a move that new Athletics Director David Matlin said will show the department is serious. But, this move will only suck more money out of a department that is expecting an almost $4 million deficit this year.

Deficit in athletics has been a trend seen in 11 of the past 13 years.  Matlin had told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he is talking to potential donors to contribute sums to help underwrite the stipends, which would help cover the costs of attendance, in addition to looking at marketing and licensing possibilities. If he is talking to potential donors, their money should go into helping the department get out of its deficit.

Falling short

In February, the athletics department released a report that looked at options to help save money. Some options included cutting men’s volleyball, swimming, diving and the coed sailing program. If athletics is in such a bad financial situation, any money going there should be helping it get to a better place.

The department’s accumulated deficit over the past 13 years has totaled approximately $17.5 million. According to the report, the department has long faced a period of revenue shortfall, resulting in revenue that is not sufficient to support its operating costs. The department oversees 20 sports and about 475 student athletes, and yet, according to the report, it’s understaffed to support these sports and athletes.

The report also looked at how costs are expected to rise with new opportunities to spend on student athletes, and offering cost of attendance (COA) stipends is one of them.

 “Not all schools need to adopt, but the reality is this: It’s going to be used against you in recruiting. Coaches are already leery of that,” Ben Jay, previous athletics director, said in a March Ka Leo article. “It’s already tough enough to recruit in Hawai‘i.”

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser article, nine of the 11 schools in the Mountain West plan to offer COA stipends, and one school has said it won’t offer stipends.

The stipends

A stipend could be almost $4,085 on average, and with 248 scholarship athletes, covering such stipends could cost $1.1 million to $1.2 million if all scholarship athletes received them.

The stipends would go towards helping student athletes with cell phone bills, laundry and transportation costs.

 With the university’s increased tuition rates, stipends for its student athletes could be beneficial. With taking classes and being devoted to their sports, athletes may not have time to take on a job to pay for extra expenses.

However, UH’s student athletes aren’t professionals; they’re students who have decided to commit their time to get an education at UH and play intercollegiate sports.

And although any student could use money to cover expenses associated with attending school, especially in Hawai‘i, many of our athletes — about half of them —  are already on some athletic scholarships. And although they may not be all full-rides, they are still getting paid.

Matlin previously told Ka Leo that this move would be in UH’s best interest, but with its athletics department already in a financial hole, offering stipends may make things worse.