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Money for college athletes: not if, but how

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Money for college athletes: not if, but how

MIAMI (AP) After decades when paying college athletes was thought to violate the spirit of amateurism, the enormous television revenue generated by sports - football and basketball in particular - and the long hours of work by the players have changed the debate.

The head of the NCAA now supports a stipend for athletes to cover costs beyond tuition, books and fees, and both coaches in Monday's BCS championship between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama spoke in support of the idea in the days before the game.

The question is no longer whether to cut athletes a check, it's how best to do that.

``I still think the overriding factor here is that these young men put in so much time with being a student and then their responsibilities playing the sport, that they don't have an opportunity to make any money at all,'' Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday.

``I want them to be college kids, and a stipend will continue to allow them to be college kids.''

To get a sense of the landscape, look at the way things were when Notre Dame last won the national championship, in 1988. That season, Fighting Irish players earned scholarships worth about $10,000 per year and the school got $3 million for playing in the Fiesta Bowl to go with the revenue it made for TV appearances throughout the season. Even then, there was discussion about the disparity between benefits for the players and for the schools.

This season's Irish will get scholarships worth about $52,000 per year and the school will receive $6.2 million for playing in the title game - to go with the $15 million NBC reportedly pays just to televise the school's regular-season home games.

While the value of that athletic scholarship has never been greater, the money being made by the schools that play big-time college football has skyrocketed, too.

NCAA President Mark Emmert believes it is time for a change.

While Emmert draws a clear distinction between the $2,000 stipend he has proposed and play-for-pay athletics, he unapologetically advocates for giving student-athletes a larger cut of a huge pie that is about to get even bigger.

The NCAA's current men's basketball tournament agreement with CBS is worth an average of more than $770 million per year, and the current Bowl Championship Series television deal - money that goes to conferences and then is distributed to schools, with no NCAA involvement - is worth $180 million per year.

The new college football playoff, which starts in the 2014 season, will be worth about $470 million annually to the conferences.

Emmert chides athletic programs that make major decisions guided by efforts to generate more revenue, such as switching conferences, and then complain they can't afford a stipend.

``When the world believes it's all a money grab, how can you say we can stick with the same scholarship model as 40 years ago?'' he said last month.

In October 2011, the NCAA's Division I Board of Directors approved a rule change that would give colleges the option of providing athletes with a $2,000 stipend for expenses not covered by scholarships.

``It doesn't strike me as drastic by definition,'' said Mike Slive, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Alabama's league, and one of the most vocal advocates for a full-cost-of-attendance scholarship. ``There is a fixed definition for a scholarship. There's no reason why it shouldn't be reviewed.''

But many schools objected to the policy, and last January, the board delayed its implementation. Colleges worried about how the stipends would affect Title IX compliance and whether they'd be able to afford them.

``I do understand the economics, that it might be more difficult for some than others, but for those that can do it, it's the right thing do to and that ought to be the guiding factor,'' he said.

Right now, the millions of dollars schools are making through sports are often going back into athletic programs. Colleges are caught in a never-ending race with their fellow institutions to attract the best talent with the best facilities, stadiums and coaches.

The Associated Press looked at federal filings by schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-12 (formerly the Pac-10) and Southeastern Conference.

In 2003, the members of those conferences at the time reported average athletic department revenues of $45.6 million and expenses of $42.3 million. By 2011, the current members' average revenue had increased 76.1 percent to $80.4 million. Expenses had grown at an even faster rate, up 76.5 percent to $74.6 million.

The average salary for head coaches of men's teams increased almost 131 percent in that span, with football driving that number.

Alabama coach Nick Saban will make about $6 million this season, including bonuses, if the Crimson Tide beats Notre Dame. Kelly's contract with Notre Dame pays him about $2.4 million per year, according to research done by USA Today (because it is a private school, Notre Dame does not make Kelly's salary public).

Having benefited most from the boom, it's perhaps not surprising coaches such as Kelly and Saban support finding a way to get more money to their players.

``A lot of the young people that we have, that play college football, the demographics that they come from, they don't have a lot and I think we should try to create a situation where their quality of life, while they're getting an education, might be a little better,'' Saban said. ``I feel that the athletes should share in some of this to some degree. I don't really have an opinion on how that should be done. There's a lot of other people who probably have a lot more experience in figuring that one out, but I do think we should try to enhance the quality of life for all student-athletes.

``I believe the leadership in the NCAA finally sort of acknowledges that so that's probably a big step in that direction.''

The old argument was that a scholarship provided enough benefit. And while there is wide variation, depending on the college and major, there is little doubt among those who study the issue that a bachelor's degree is a huge economic boon, even for those who have to borrow to pay for it.

In a 2011 report, Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce calculated a worker with a bachelor's degree will earn on average $2.3 million over a lifetime. That's roughly $500,000 more than associate's degree-holders, $700,000 more than those with some college but no degree, and $1 million more than those with just a high school diploma.

According to the latest NCAA statistics, 70 percent of football players in the top division graduated within six years. The NCAA's Graduation Success Rate takes into account transfers and athletes who leave in good academic standing.

In the 11 years that GSR data have been collected, the rate for football players in the top division has increased by 7 percentage points - so more players are getting the benefit of a college degree.

The problem is scholarship rules have lagged behind the times, said Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott, now in his fourth year in the job. His conference, like most of the major ones, supports a stipend.

``The scholarship rules don't allow you to cover the full cost of attendance,'' he said. ``Doesn't cover things like miscellaneous meals, trips home, clothes and other things. For me there has been a gap.

``This does not cross the philosophical Rubicon of paying players.''

Players, naturally, agree.

``It kind of goes both ways,'' said Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri, whose father, Sal, is a college football coach and former NFL player. ``A lot of people would say we don't deserve it because we already get enough as college kids that just happen to play a sport. A lot of people don't realize all the work that goes into all the stuff that we have to do throughout the day.

``I have no time during the day. I wake up at 6 a.m., lift, go to class, right after class you come back up to the football complex to watch film and get ready for practice. By the time you get out, you've got to go to study hall. By the time you get out of study hall, it's basically bed time. It is really like a full-time job.''

Alabama long snapper Carson Tinker made the team as a non-scholarship walk-on, but earned a scholarship this season.

``I'm very thankful for my scholarship,'' Tinker said. ``All of us have bills. All of us have expenses, just like every other student. I don't live with football players. I live with two of my good friends. While I'm at practice every day, they have a job. They're able to pay their bills, buy food, stuff like that.''

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick is on the NCAA committee studying how to implement a stipend. It's complicated.

To help build more support, Emmert's latest proposal would make the funds need-based. In other words, lower-income students would get more money than wealthy ones.

The problem is, that could limit students' access to federal aid, such as Pell Grants.

``If what you're doing is subsidizing the federal government because you offset the Pell Grant, what's the point?'' he said Sunday. ``What have you achieved if they are getting less money from the Pell Grant and more from you and the student-athlete hasn't netted out an additional dime?''

Also, this isn't just about paying football players.

``I'm not interested in having a different standard for football players than volleyball players,'' Swarbrick said.

However it works out, Kelly sees stipends as inevitable.

``This is going to happen,'' Kelly said. ``It's just when is it going to happen? I think like minds need to get together and figure it out.''

---

Cohen reported from New York. AP Education Writer Justin Pope also contributed to this report.

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The Redskins need these three to be at their best in Week 2 against the Cowboys

The Redskins need these three to be at their best in Week 2 against the Cowboys

Come about four o'clock on Sunday afternoon, the Redskins and their fans will either be feeling quite good with a 1-1 record or the exact opposite of quite good thanks to an 0-2 start.

Washington will of course need Case Keenum to try and come close to replicating what he did in the opener against the Eagles and could really use a vintage Adrian Peterson Performance. 

Beyond them, though, who needs to be on point for the Redskins? These three absolutely qualify.

Ryan Kerrigan

The Burgundy and Gold's defensive line is down two players already and will be relying upon a couple of guys who basically just arrived. They may have trouble generating pressure up the middle thanks to that, meaning Kerrigan better be ready to do so on the edge.

If the home team allows Dak Prescott to stand in the pocket and pat the ball like Carson Wentz did in Week 1, then it'll be another long day for the entire unit. But if Kerrigan, who plays especially well against division foes, can be a constant threat to Prescott, then that'll make a big difference.

In 2018, Kerrigan forced a game-changing fumble at FedEx Field when facing Dallas. Hopefully he can follow that up with another productive outing this year.

Paul Richardson

Richardson had a fine stat line versus the Eagles, but he did have one drive-killing drop and didn't come up with any of the deep catches he's being counted on to create. Terry McLaurin was clearly the star of the receiving corps, while Richardson played more of a supporting role.

Now, perhaps McLaurin will shine again. Even if he does, Jay Gruden would still love for Richardson to also contribute with a splash play or two. Keenum showed he's willing to take chances downfield, so Richardson will need to use his speed and give Keenum a target for those chances.

The Redskins' most obvious path to a win Sunday will be to pound the ball with Peterson and control the clock as best as they can. That said, if Richardson can flip the field and help the offense score quickly instead of trying to string together 10-play drives, that'll make an upset more likely.

Greg Manusky

Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, after just one game in the role, is drawing comparisons to Sean McVay. He brings his offense loaded with playmakers to Landover for Week 2, and will be squaring off with Manusky's group. It's on Manusky to match Moore.

Manusky had a tumultuous offseason and the defense's Week 1 showing in Philadelphia didn't do much to improve his standing as defensive coordinator. And as mentioned earlier, he'll be rolling out a D-line that's missing some major talent as well as a secondary that has injury issues as well.

Those won't be viable excuses for another game in which his players can't get off the field on third downs or force any turnovers, though. His defenders simply have to play better, sure, but he's going to have to put them in positions to succeed as well, or else he'll be scrutinized even more. 

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Yan Gomes’ workload will continue to increase for the Nationals

Yan Gomes’ workload will continue to increase for the Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Friday afternoon grousing centered on what time the plane arrived. The Nationals’ charter returned to Dulles International Airport around 6 a.m. From there, players and staff scurried to their houses, some being caught in the morning commute.

Yan Gomes made it home in about 27 minutes. He needed to get to sleep. Friday night he would be catching his seventh consecutive game, a grind he had been through other times in his career, but complicated Friday by the late (or early) landing following a pre-dawn departure from Minneapolis.

Gomes figures he was asleep by 6:45 a.m., roughly 15-20 minutes after he walked through the door of his home. He woke up around 12:30 p.m. Then, he took the step so many do after first arising: the coffee was brewed, prompting midday to act as morning. Next was arriving at the park, where food and hydration were the priorities. Gomes, 32, needed to prepare his body for baseball’s hardest position and his brain for Max Scherzer’s outing.

“I don’t think people realize how much adrenaline we’re using [Friday],” Gomes said. “Just try to get through today. But the main thing is nobody is feeling bad for us we had a late night. Everyone’s kind of doing that. Scheduling this year has been kind of weird.”

Gomes crouching behind the plate again Friday was running him into an uncommon level of usage during his eight-year career -- and a level of work which is going to continue. Gomes, even when the primary catcher in Cleveland, caught seven or more games in a row (and never more than eight) six times. He had not handled such a stretch since 2016. Only once did such a streak occur in September, and that happened in 2014, Gomes’ second full season in the league.

“I’ve done scheduling like this before where I’ve had to catch night and day games a lot of times,” Gomes said. “I think when you get a certain age, you just have to pay more attention with the pregame stuff, postgame stuff. Body doesn’t recover as well. It’s one of those things where got to sack up and use some caffeine to get you through the day [Friday]. Drink as much as you can, as much as you can tolerate. Everyone’s tired. You just got to make sure you’re loose and ready to go so injuries don’t happen.”

Saturday he received a break. Rookie Raudy Read caught Austin Voth. However, the respite will be temporary.

Kurt Suzuki still has not thrown a baseball since injuring his right elbow Sept. 6. Inflammation continues to be an issue. He swung a bat in the batting cage Friday. Saturday, Suzuki pulled on his catching gear and went to the bullpen to practice blocking balls with bullpen coach Henry Blanco. Sprints followed. Throwing did not.

“Said he felt OK,” Davey Martinez said. “If he continues to do that, try to get him to hit on the field by early next week and we'll go from there. We miss him. We hope we can get him back soon. He's doing everything he can to try to get ready and play again as soon as possible.”

Read and Tres Barrera -- both rookies -- now comprise the backup catchers. The good news for Gomes is his prior experience as the full-time catcher and that he split time much of this season. Suzuki and Gomes were running close to a clean workload split before Suzuki’s injury. Gomes caught 71 games, Suzuki 68. So, he’s done this before and received rest earlier this season to position him well to do it again.

And, a hard decision was going to come in the postseason for Martinez. Suzuki’s offense is a clear plus over Gomes. However, his ability to throw out baserunners is almost non-existent this season, when Suzuki has thrown out five of 50 base-stealers. The 10 percent caught stealing rate is the lowest of his career and well below the 23 percent average during his 13 seasons in the major leagues. Those numbers are also influenced by pitchers, situations and official scorer rulings. However, Suzuki’s 10 percent is a stunningly low number and directly reflective of his struggles.

Martinez previously said an MRI of Suzuki’s elbow showed no structural damage. Inflammation remains the issue. Resolution of the inflammation remains tricky.

“Listening to the medical staff and listening to him, the biggest thing is getting the inflammation out of his elbow,” Martinez said. “Then we'll see how far we can push him to get him ready. But a lot is going to be determined on him, what he feels and how he feels.”

Washington’s system is without a top-tier catching prospect. Read is considered more of a hitter. He could well become a first baseman in the future. Barrera played this season at Double-A Harrisburg. He was a sixth-round pick in 2016. A preseason list of the organization’s top 30 prospects placed Barrera 18th despite turning 25 years old on Sunday.

The complication of limited options popped up Saturday. Washington put two runners with one out. Read was due up. The situation was primed for Suzuki to pinch-hit, then take over as catcher, if he was able. Or even giving Gomes a chance -- if he hadn’t caught for seven consecutive days. Read hit for himself and grounded into a double play.

The final month’s workload rests with Gomes. Of the 15 remaining games, he will likely catch up to 14 if Suzuki remains injured. There is one built-in off-day. A split day-night doubleheader against Philadelphia will require Read to make another appearance. Otherwise, it’s time to sleep, eat, stay hydrated and ride it out.

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