HOOVER, ALA. | Southeastern Conference players have mostly been content to let league administrators and coaches take up the drumbeat for NCAA reform ‚Äî not that they‚Äôre complaining.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive has even said the Big Five conferences could break away from the NCAA if players aren‚Äôt compensated more properly.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has advocated that players should be getting a bigger piece of college athletics‚Äô substantial monetary pie for years.
Maybe the most ambivalent group in the whole process? The players.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not starving,‚Äù Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. ‚ÄúBut at the end of the day it would be nice to receive a little more compensation.‚Äù
The life of major college football players and coaches could change drastically in upcoming years once the NCAA and Big Five conferences are done revamping the current system.
Players at SEC Media Days were mostly pleased about the trend toward a few more perks ‚Äî including scholarships that would offer full cost of attendance ‚Äî but also admit they‚Äôve already got it pretty good. The fact that most of those upperclassmen might not be around to benefit might make it easier to downplay.
‚ÄúI think that shouldn‚Äôt be a deterrent, the fact that it might not change while you‚Äôre here,‚Äù said Georgia receiver Chris Conley, a member of the NCAA‚Äôs Student-Athlete Advisory Council.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got to think about others. When you don‚Äôt think selfishly, you realize that the people behind you are going to have the same problems that you did, so you need to change those things.
‚ÄúAs long as the NCAA keeps evolving and growing, it can‚Äôt become stagnant because the country is evolving and growing. As long as it keeps moving forward, that‚Äôs all we can ask.‚Äù
The NCAA‚Äôs board of directors will vote on the Big Five‚Äôs push for more autonomy in August and if it‚Äôs approved a cascade of changes could come quickly.
Slive said the first item on the agenda would be scholarships that included full cost of attendance, which would allow players a little more financial flexibility.
‚ÄúThere is some angst on the part of many, but I think many realize we‚Äôre moving into the 21st century, things are different and expectations of student-athletes are different,‚Äù Slive said.
Some players say they‚Äôre paying attention to the proposed changes. Others say they‚Äôre too busy concentrating on football.
‚ÄúIf it happens, it‚Äôs going to be great for the players. I know that,‚Äù Tennessee senior linebacker A.J. Johnson said. ‚ÄúBut I won‚Äôt be here for that. The main thing for me is I will be here for this season.‚Äù
Arkansas offensive lineman Brey Cook lives with his family in Fayetteville, so he can get home-cooked meals, free laundry and other comforts of home.
‚ÄúBut that‚Äôs not the case for most of the guys,‚Äù Cook said. ‚ÄúA lot of guys are from all over the country. Some have children they have to take care of, and sometimes (the current situation) doesn‚Äôt cut it.‚Äù
Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III said he thinks players should get paid.
‚ÄúI think we all do. I think it‚Äôs a job to play college football,‚Äù Hargreaves said. ‚ÄúBut I can‚Äôt really concern myself with it because I can‚Äôt do anything about it.‚Äù
Auburn center Reese Dismukes and Georgia coach Mark Richt pointed out that high-profile athletes get plenty of perks.
That includes playing on national television, of course, tutors and academic counselors, nutritionists, sports psychologists and up to five years of coaching.
Not to mention tuition, room and board.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think that‚Äôs that big of a deal,‚Äù Dismukes said. ‚ÄúWe get a lot of intangibles right now. We‚Äôve got school and all that stuff paid for. You get food and that kind of stuff. Obviously there‚Äôs a big push for that these days with all those guys, but we get a lot right now. We‚Äôre doing pretty good for ourselves.‚Äù
For Richt, there‚Äôs also the nurturing received by young men from ages 18-22, who can use college connections as a way to build a professional career if football doesn‚Äôt work out.
Richt said Georgia has specific programs in place that can help football players adjust to life after football.
‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt always put a price on that,‚Äù he said.