New NCAA cash ‘a big deal’ for mid-majors College of Charleston, Citadel and Charleston Southern will benefit from payout

The NCAA will distribute $18.9 million to its nearly 350 Division I schools to help them fund new cost-of-attendance scholarships and additional meals allowed by new rules. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong/File

The NCAA announced Monday that it will distribute $18.9 million to its nearly 350 Division I schools to help them fund new cost-of-attendance scholarships and additional meals allowed by new rules.

That amounts to about $55,000 per school, a drop in the bucket for the rich athletic departments at “Power Five” schools such as Clemson and South Carolina. But for FCS schools such as The Citadel and Charleston Southern, and for non-football D-I schools such as College of Charleston, the extra bucks will come in handy.

“Absolutely, it’s a big deal,” said Citadel athletic director Jim Senter, who runs a department with annual revenues of about $14 million, compared with $75 million at Clemson and $98 million at South Carolina. “Most schools spend $100,000 just on fruits, nuts and bagels to augment the nutritional needs of their athletes. That’s something we don’t do at The Citadel, so we can get halfway there with just this money alone.’

The NCAA’s Board of Governors approved the new money in January, beginning with the 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts Sept. 1. The first payments will be received in June of 2016. The $18.9 million will come from cuts in the NCAA’s operating budget and through reallocation of money that had been going to an NCAA endowment fund, according to USA Today.

Schools cannot use the new money for operating expenses or facilities projects. It must go toward cost-of-attendance awards, additional food expenses or academic projects. Rule changes pushed by Power Five schools in January allow Division I schools to award scholarships that cover expenses beyond the traditional tuition, room and board. Other rule changes also increased student-athletes’ access to food.

Division I schools are not required to cover cost-of-attendance expenses, and many — The Citadel included — still are in the process of deciding how they will handle that issue. In the Southern Conference, Chattanooga has announced that it will spend its NCAA cash — about $56,000 — on cost-of-attendance stipends of $2,000 for each of 15 women’s basketball players and 13 men’s basketball players.

“We’re continuing to evaluate our position, looking at and watching the landscape,” The Citadel’s Senter said. “I think everybody (in the SoCon) is waiting to see who will do what. I know that Chattanooga has decided to fund cost of attendance for its men’s and women’s basketball programs, and they are the first SoCon school to jump in the pool.”

Senter said The Citadel is pondering the best way to spend the new $55,000 from the NCAA.

“It’s our goal to maximize the new money for all our athletes,” he said. “We’re very thankful it’s going to be distributed. It was unexpected, and we want to be able to use it to help all our student-athletes. For example, if we wanted to put that money toward food for all 325 of our cadet-athletes, we could do that. As I said, most people are spending $100,000 just for fruit, nuts and bagels.”

College of Charleston athletic director Joe Hull agreed that the new money “will be very helpful” for his department, which reported revenues of $17.4 million in 2014.

Like the SoCon, the Colonial Athletic Association is leaving the decision on cost of attendance up to member schools. Among CAA schools, College of Charleston and Towson have committed to providing stipends to student-athletes. Towson will provide stipends to men’s and women’s basketball players, while Charleston has chosen a tiered plan that will provide some money to athletes in all 19 varsity sports. Basketball players will receive the most money, followed by baseball and volleyball players, with athletes in other sports receiving the same lesser amount.

Hull said he projects a cost of about $300,000 to provide of cost of attendance for Cougar athletes, with the new $55,000 from the NCAA going toward that cost.

“We just felt like if it was possible, we should be inclusive to the extent we could,” Hull said. “We wanted to expand it to beyond just men’s and women’s basketball. Certainly, we have sport such as baseball and volleyball that are high-level programs that we wanted to include.

“We’re not able to provide the full amount across the board, but we’re able to provide some to all sports. We felt like we had to do something with cost of attendance to compete at the highest level. We felt like if we didn’t do it, we’d fall behind.’

The Big South Conference, which includes Charleston Southern, has adopted a league-wide policy requiring members to cover cost of attendance expenses for men’s and women’s basketball players. Big South member Liberty University has decided to pay cost of attendance for all its athletes.

The new $55,000 from the NCAA would cover a cost-of-attendance stipend of about $3,000 for 18 athletes.

The new pool of money from the NCAA is in addition to the more than $500 million the association already distributes to member schools and conferences. The new distribution will receive the same annual inflationary increases the NCAA’s other distribution pools receive, the association said.