Blog Bag Answers: Stricklin on Paying Players

July tends to be a slow month on the college beat, but that didn’t stop y’all from raining down questions in this week’s Blog Bag. Fine with me.

Let’s start with a series of questions involving a hot-button issue: paying college athletes (legally). MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin weighs in.

Q: How many total student-athletes (men and women) are enrolled at MSU? How much “excess” revenue is available to support these athletes in the current athletic budget? (I’m almost certain that there is zero excess available for “salaries” or “stipends”).

A: During the 2010-11 academic year, there were 430 student-athletes enrolled at MSU, according to Stricklin.

As to the second question, I assume you mean what excess revenue there would be to pay athletes. Right now, MSU really has no excess built into its budget. In fact, many schools are doing good if their revenue winds up matching their budget. Of course, private funds could come into play here, but much of that money is also spoken for – scholarship money, coaches’ salaries, facility projects, etc.

Q: If paying athletes were to become something standardized in NCAA athletics, how would the amount per student be calculated and would this vary from institution to institution?

A: That’s a huge question, and one I can’t answer. But I recommend this article by Pat Forde, who examines the issue in depth.

Q: Does Stricklin believe that paying players will ever actually become reality?

A: Stricklin: “Hard to speculate, but rather than ‘paying’ players, I could see an increase to the value of the scholarship that would get it up to the ‘cost of attendance’ figure that the government figures for each school. With Pell Grants, many athletes are already at or near that figure.”

That term “cost of attendance” is what Ivan Maisel calls “bureaucratic jargon.”

Q: On the ribbon scoreboard at Davis Wade Stadium, I was curious if they were covering up the “Mississippi State University” script on the upper deck or if they were going around it, and how it will work on the “new” upper deck since it doesn’t really have a facade on it.

A: Stricklin again: “The boards will cover the lettering on the west side upper deck facade. On the east side, it will have to be attached slightly differently and be more narrow because there isn’t much facade to work with.”

Q: Now that basketball player John Riek is gone, could there still be a chance of a European guy joining the team even if he had to sit out some games?

A: There is now a scholarship available, although at this point any new player could only sign a financial aid agreement with MSU. According to NCAA bylaw, a foreign transfer has to sit out a year just like any other transfer, unless he is a “bone fide exchange student” who’s sponsored by his nation’s government, the U.S. Department of State, Rotary International, the Ford Foundation, the Institute of International Education, or some other similar organization.

Speaking of Riek, he is reportedly transferring to the University of Tampa.

Q: Hasn’t the women’s 3-point line moved back to the men’s line this season, and the men adopted an arch under the basket?

A: Yes on both counts. Here are details.

Q: Are they going to continue remembering Nick Bell this year by letting players wear his number?

A: I’ve been unable to get an answer to that yet, but I’ll try to ask Dan Mullen next week at SEC media days.