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Kansas’ Self ready for NCAA to allow paying of college players

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, at 8:02 p.m.

— Kansas basketball coach Bill Self used to hold a pretty hard-line stance when it came to the contentious issue of compensating NCAA athletes beyond the traditional parameters of a scholarship.

But every year around the NCAA Tournament, Self began to see a noticeable disconnect. The television revenue dollars continued to pile up, the NCAA collecting billions, while the parents of his players had to cough up four or five figures to follow their kids to tournament sites around the country.

“I used to be totally against it,” Self said. “I used to be totally against doing anything other than room, board, books, tuition and fees. But I’ve changed. And the landscape has changed also. It was always big business; now it’s huge business.

“And when you’re sending players from the West Coast to East Coast to play sports, to miss more classes, and the schools benefit from that financially, why shouldn’t the people that are responsible for the business, and that would be the student athletes.”

The matter of compensating student-athletes will be just one of many pressing issues discussed when Self plays host to “A Courtside View” — a roundtable of some of college basketball’s most important voices and analysts. The upcoming event, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Nov. 1 at Crown Toyota Pavilion in Lawrence, will include Self, national writer Mike DeCourcy, ESPN commentators Jay Bilas and Fran Fraschilla, and Kansas City Star college columnist Blair Kerkhoff.

Self said he also expects the group to address issues such as the one-and-done rule, NCAA academic reform and the business side of college athletics, among others. The proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Self’s Assists Foundation.

“It’s a chance to bring some very knowledgeable people in to talk about important issues affecting our sport," Self said.

But it’s likely that the debate over paying college athletes — and the idea of amateurism in college sports — will get ample time. Bilas has been an outspoken critic of the NCAA’s convoluted rulebook, suggesting that NCAA athletes should be able to use their name or likeness to earn money from outside channels — a model similar to that of the Olympics.

Self, meanwhile, joins a growing list of high-profile college coaches who have expressed concern with the current model. Texas football coach Mack Brown and Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari have taken similar public stances.

But change remains slow. Last October, the NCAA passed legislation to provide scholarship athletes an additional $2,000 annually — a de facto stipend that would give athletes more financial leeway. But months later, the legislation was put on hold when schools offered opposition, expressing concern about the financial burden.

Brown spoke up after the new football playoff system was formalized earlier this year.

“It will be a very lucrative event, and those young people are the ones that make it all happen,” Brown wrote on his Twitter account.

Calipari, meanwhile, has reached further than Self. Earlier this year, he voiced dismay with the NCAA and suggested that a potential stipend should be larger.

"The decisions they make on the $2,000 (expense allowance for student-athletes) — it should have been $4,000,” Calipari told The Sporting News. “It’s a stipend. It’s not salary. It’s not pay-for-play. It’s a stipend. It’s expenses. And then schools vote against it. All this stuff piles up to where people are going to say, ’Enough’s enough.’ "

Self doesn’t pretend to have perfect solutions. But he does hope the current system begins to address the easier fixes. When Self’s Kansas program advanced to the NCAA title game earlier this year, he estimates that some of his players’ families spent as much as $10,000 to travel to the Jayhawks’ three NCAA tourney sites — and two were within driving distance of Lawrence.

“Even if it’s to the point,” Self said, “where the NCAA paid for the parents of student-athletes to attend bowl games (or) paid for the parents of student athletes to attend an NCAA game. There’s so many things you can do.”

Check Rustin Dodd’s Jayhawk Dispatch blog at blogs.kansas.com/jayhawks. Reach him at rdodd@wichitaeagle.com.

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