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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 and Turner 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 the school's federal filings (because it is a private school, Notre Dame does not have to release his contract).

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.''

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

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Five of the most memorable and wild Redskins upsets from the past 10 years

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USA TODAY Sports

Five of the most memorable and wild Redskins upsets from the past 10 years

Upsets get a lot of attention in March, due to the allure of the NCAA Tournament and the non-allure of everyone who loves to talk about how THEY CALLED that upset that YOU DIDN'T.

With that being said, upsets happen every month of the year, and they go down weekly in the NFL. So, how about we look back at some of the Redskins' particularly surprising wins from the past decade?

Here are five of the most memorable. 

5) 2014 - Redskins 27, Eagles 24

The Eagles came into FedEx Field late in 2014 with a 9-5 record needing a win to remain squarely in the playoff hunt. The Redskins, meanwhile, were just 3-11 and had changed quarterbacks a depressing five times.

Yet in this matchup, Robert Griffin III managed the offense well and DeSean Jackson had more than 120 receiving yards against his former team because DeSean Jackson is awesome.

Yes, the 'Skins were outproduced in nearly every major stat category. But Mark Sanchez — sorry, future Redskin great Mark Sanchez — had two costly turnovers and Cody Parkey missed two field goals (Philly fans have probably forgiven him by now), allowing the home team to squeak out a W.

4) 2009 - Redskins 27, Broncos 17

This is one of those random Redskins games you've probably forgotten about because it came in a lost season, but it was still a miraculous victory.

The most iconic play from this one was a Hunter Smith to Mike Sellers TD on a fake field goal — a fake, mind you, that came after a timeout by Jim Zorn because the unit's first fake punt attempt included only 10 players on the field.

Denver was 6-2 but lost Kyle Orton to injury at halftime. Jason Campbell, on the other hand, helped the Burgundy and Gold score more than 17 points for the first time all year.

"We've had a desert experience -- very arid, if you will -- for the last few weeks," Zorn said postgame. "So to be able to come out with a win, you almost don't know how to feel."

The Zorn Era was terrible, but you have to give the dude credit for working "very arid" into an NFL press conference.

3) 2012 - Redskins 40, Saints 32

There was plenty of hype surrounding RG3's debut, but there was no way he was going to lead the Redskins to a win over the Saints... in his debut... in the Superdome... right?

Wrong. Incorrect. Not right.

Griffin found Pierre Garcon early for an 88-yard score and the offense stayed hot all afternoon, outpacing a New Orleans squad that was favored by more than a touchdown. If you want a further reminder of how impressive this effort was, look back at what happened to this franchise in the Superdome this past season. 

2) 2014 - Redskins 20, Cowboys 17

Dallas' six-game winning streak stood no chance against Colt McCoy, as the Texas legend went into the Cowboys' house for a wild Monday Night triumph.

Kai Forbath's field goal sealed it in overtime and Bashaud Breeland dominated Dez Bryant, but McCoy was the star. On the way to his first successful start in close to three seasons, the signal caller went 25 for 30 in the air and found the end zone on the ground, too.

1) 2017 - Redskins 17, Seahawks 14

If someone in your life thinks they can't do something, just pull up the box score or highlights from this contest. They will then realize that nothing is impossible, because the Redskins beating the Seahawks on this Sunday should've been impossible, yet it somehow happened anyway.

Washington went into Seattle's harsh environment down six starters, including three on the O-line, but Kirk Cousins kept things together and found Brian Quick and Josh Doctson for long completions on a harrowing last drive to steal this result. It wasn't quite UMBC over Virginia, but it was absolutely a stunning final nonetheless. 

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With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

At the beginning of the week, the Washington Wizards had 12 games left on the schedule and needed to win a minimum of eight or nine of those games if they hoped to make the playoffs.

It’s Thursday night and Washington’s loss to the Jazz makes three in a row.

With nine games left on the schedule, where do they stand in the East postseason race and the draft lottery order?

Eastern Conference Standings

Losing three-straight games hasn’t actually dropped the Wizards from the 11th spot in the East, where they’ve hovered the last couple weeks. For that they can thank the tanking Atlanta Hawks.

Don’t think those L’s aren’t costing Washington, though. In the same span of time, the 8-seed Heat have won three in a row.

Now Bradley Beal and Co. are a full six games out of the final playoff spot with nine games to go. They also trail Orlando (34-38) in ninth and Charlotte (32-39) in 10th.

They’re not absolutely, certainly, 100-percent eliminated from playoff contention, but they must win every game left.

Even that might not be enough.

NBA Draft Lottery

Back-to-back-to-back losses took a major toll on whatever playoff hopes Washington had left. For a silver lining, look no further than the team’s draft lottery position.

The Wizards started the week ninth in the draft lottery order, which gave them 20.3 percent odds of scoring a top-four pick (preferably in the form of a Duke freshman or Ja Morant). That ninth spot also carries a 4.5 percent chance at the top-overall pick.

While the Wiz kids were busy dropping 3 games, the two teams immediately ahead of them in the lottery order had better luck.

The Grizzlies won their only game so far this week, while the Pelicans won one of two.

Those results dropped New Orleans to number nine, boosted Washington to number eight and left them tied with Memphis at 15.5 games out of number one in the lottery order (though Memphis’s win percentage is fractionally lower and keeps them in seventh).

If the Wizards can pass the Grizzlies and climb into seventh, that’s a big deal in terms of lottery odds. Simulating the drawing, the ninth-place team gets a top-four pick once in every five simulations. The seventh-place team gets a top-four pick once in every three simulations.

Look Ahead

Washington can’t lose another game if they want to make the playoffs. This is literally must-win territory.

Even winning out is no guarantee they’ll advance to the postseason.

Up next, Washington hosts Miami at home on Saturday, followed by a West Coast road trip the following week.

Games to Watch

Heat at Wizards, Saturday 7 PM

Timberwolves at Grizzlies, Saturday 8 PM

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