A former men’s basketball player said he often wondered what happened to all the money that his program generated.
Chris Kramer, who played his final season in 2010, certainly never saw any of it, but he knew others were benefiting.
“I’m human – you always want more,” he said. “With all that money bringing in, ‘Where does it go?’ ‘Why can’t we get more of it?’ Those simple things that everybody asks every single day.”
Kramer said he’d look around at other athletes who were somehow driving nice cars at other universities and wonder what kind of car he would have had he gone there. Purdue plays very close to the rules, he said, and no athletes ever received compensation that violated the NCAA. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t think athletes shouldn’t be able to get money legally for their services.
“I played. I think it’d be a great idea when you’re playing,” he said.
According to Athletics Director Morgan Burke, if Purdue had to hand
Kramer a salary on top of his scholarship, his department would be left with two options: cut funding that went toward making David Boudia an Olympic diver or start charging all students to make up the difference.
Burke said he simply does not have the budget to pay athletes and provide funds for the sports that do not bring in big money.
“I’m being asked to be self-sufficient, so we don’t have to ask students for help,” he said, “and there’s a limit to what we can do.”
Burke works with a $60 million budget that comes from revenue outside of the University’s general funds. Half of that money comes from football and men’s basketball. The other half comes from alumni contributions, television revenue (the University gets $22 million from the Big Ten Network) and marketing rights. Burke spends approximately $8.5 million of that budget on scholarships for athletes, and he puts most of the rest toward departmental costs such as maintaining facilities and paying coaches’ salaries.
Burke sees little room in that budget to provide athletes with a salary while meeting those other expenses. Not only doesn’t he have the funds, he said, but he doesn’t see the need.
The question of whether to pay college athletes has moved to the forefront of NCAA debates with a recent scandal at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes’ former star quarterback, Terrell Pryor, would have had to sit out for the first five games of the coming season for trading memorabilia for tattoos had he not decided to forgo his senior year. Burke doesn’t think anyone can use the lack of a salary for Pryor as an excuse for his actions.
“The argument they’re making is these poor kids had to sell their memorabilia because they didn’t have any money,” Burke said. “I’m not buying it. I would be one to argue that those who need it, most have access to it,” he said.
Purdue’s head swimming and diving coach, Dan Ross, agrees with Burke – he sees no need to pay college athletes. He said although the football and men’s basketball players aren’t getting paid for their play, they receive plenty of perks that come along with their scholarships. Those players take planes to the games; his swimmers and divers take buses.
“These guys are getting treated like royalty,” he said. “I think these guys are getting spoiled as it is, and I’m not just talking those guys. My guys as well.”
Ross said he appreciates the revenue-generating sports for supporting his program, and he pointed to the facilities that Boudia used to prepare him for the Olympics as an example of where the money goes. If that money were being used to pay athletes, Ross said, Boudia and other Olympians wouldn’t have the same ability to train for their country.
“One of the unintended consequences is you’d really hurt the Olympic movement,” he said.
For former women’s basketball player Danielle Cardinal, who was Danielle Bird when her team won the national championship in 1999, the perks of being a college athlete were enough.
“It’s not like you’re doing it completely for free,” she said. “I think the fact that these people are getting a free education – unfortunately, I think that’s really overlooked.”