Should Student Athlete Assistance Fund be Used to Send Parents to Final Four?

Last Updated on April 6, 2013

Imagine you have a son who plays basketball for a Division 1 school and they make it into the NCAA Tournament. You watched him pick up a basketball for the first time, you remember his first game, cheered him on in high school and now he is playing on national television in front of the entire country. Of course at this point you’re not going to stay home to watch his game from your couch.  What if the cost of traveling from Washington DC to San Jose, California is too much for you? Maybe if your son plays for a school such as Ohio State University or Kentucky this wouldn’t be an issue.

Last year when Ohio State and Kentucky made it to the Final Four, both schools decided to show gratitude to the parents of the players by helping pay for their travel costs to New Orleans. Only costing a little more than $13,000 the schools purchased one additional hotel room for three nights for each player’s family. Both schools went to the head of their conferences (Big 10 and SEC) and asked for permission to use money from the Student Assistance Fund in order to afford all this to happen.

In my last post I mentioned the Student Assistance Fund when I broke down where all the NCAA tournament money goes. As I explained previously, the Student Assistance Fund is used to help student athletes who are either financially strained and can be used for a variety of things from buying clothes to paying for an application to graduate school.

The primary source of revenue for the Student Assistance Fund is generated from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  With more than $66 million available, schools have plenty of opportunity to ask their respective conferences for money to do more deeds such as Ohio State and Kentucky.

Many would presume that student athletes would apply for the fund, with how many there are that complain they don’t receive enough and are hungry or don’t have clothes.  However, several schools have told that their students under utilize this fund despite knowing about its existence.

That being said, the money is still being used for its intended purpose. The fund paid out more than $53 million to 81,00o student-athletes during the 2010-11 academic year according to the NCAA.

When student-athletes aren’t applying individually to use the funds, however, schools like University of Maryland utilize the money to enhance the academic experience with iPads for all its student-athletes. The university spent $281,000 to help students in the classroom as well as stay in better contact with the Athletic department and their coaches.

Whether or not someone believes that this money is not being used for its intended purpose, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn told the IndyStar, “The conferences are responsible for administering the fund within the parameters,” when asked “is that a proper use of the fund, or an NCAA-permitted use of the fund?”

One of the biggest fears for any parent would be for something to happen to your child.  When you’re watching your child from your couch in Atlanta, just like University of Louisville’s Kevin Ware’s parents did, watching your son break his leg cannot be easy. (It was hard for me to watch it, and I don’t even know the guy!)  In cases such as these, when your son’s team makes it as far as the regional final and parents can’t make it to Indianapolis, it would be nice to see the schools show a little thanks to the parents. After all they wouldn’t have an athlete if it hadn’t been for mom and dad.

More schools such as University of Louisville are beginning to look more into fund uses. Many were unaware that they were even allowed to even do this. John Cams, Louisville’s senior associate athletic director for compliance told the IndyStar, “We’ve never been asked by our sports teams about doing so and we’ve never contemplated it because our conference isn’t throwing it out there”

Ohio State was the first school to start the trend, and even made a public announcement saying, “We are grateful for their [parents] support and dedication… We wish we could have done more.”

Surprising enough that it hasn’t been thought of until now, even Chad Hawley the Associate Commissioner of Compliance for the Big Ten, is taken back by how little the fund is accessed. Especially when the Big Ten received another $2 million after the 2011-12 academic year, bring the total to $7.6 million.

‘This is something that can have a direct impact on students, or maybe a direct impact on their families…” says Hawley. As any athlete knows, no one will support you as much as your family will. Who knows, maybe that was the key to Kentucky’s win last year.

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