Maryland's Gary Williams: Colleges Can Pay Players, and Should
Maryland's Gary Williams told a Baltimore radio station Tuesday afternoon that he would be in favor of athletes receiving a monthly stipend, that the NCAA undoubtedly could afford it without taking away from the non-revenue sports, and that as a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the topic is discussed constantly among his colleagues.
"The problem we have, anything we bring up with the NCAA, they kind of look at it as, 'What do these coaches -- what are they doing now, what do they want? This is just to help them,''' Williams told the "Sports With Coleman'' show on Baltimore's Fox 1370 Sports Radio. "But it's not, and I know with all the stuff that's in the paper right now, there's a ton of coaches out there who care about their players and do a great job, and hopefully will be heard in the future.''
Williams was referring to last week's return of the Heisman Trophy by Reggie Bush in the wake of NCAA findings that he received benefits while playing for USC, as well as the spate of agent-related controversies in college football, including at fellow ACC member North Carolina. Williams, entering his 22nd season at Maryland and his 32nd overall in college coaching, pointed to the new $11 billion television contract for the NCAA basketball tournament as a rebuttal to the idea that
there is not enough money to go around for all sports to give some to the football and basketball players.
"That's what the NCAA will tell you,'' he said, "but if you did pay the revenue-producing sports athletes, you would still have that money coming in that they exist on now. There's plenty of money off the men's basketball tournament that you can pay men's basketball players, football players, whatever, the revenue-producing sports, and still have enough money to run your other sports, and I think that's why a lot of people (believe) they should be paid.''
The figure Williams suggested was $200 a month -- based, he said, on the fact that when he played at Maryland in the mid-1960s, he and other athletes got $15 a month spending money as part of their scholarship. Even today, he added, regular students are allowed to receive living expenses and spending money as part of financial aid, but athletes on scholarship are not -- even though, he said, "they say that they want student-athletes to be treated just like everybody else.
"These guys don't receive anything except room, board, books, tuition and fees, which doesn't put any cash in their pockets,'' Williams said. "And some of these guys are pretty poor coming here, and a lot of college students have some money -- you feel out of place, you don't feel competitive academically sometimes, and I think it could do a lot of good.
"Plus, hopefully, it would keep away some of the unscrupulous people that do hang around the great athletes, where an athlete wouldn't befriend a guy just because a guy gave him 100 bucks or something like that.''
Better yet, Williams pointed out, it might keep players in school longer and decrease the temptation to go to the pros before they are truly ready, or if they are not ready at all. "The thing is, $200 is not gonna keep a kid in school if he's got a chance to be a first-round pick,'' he said, "but it's the other athletes, the four-year players and things like that, that might need money that, instead of taking a chance at going into the draft, they might stay another year so that they can afford to stay on the campus and they don't need that money and take the risk of not making a pro team.
"The whole thing was set up with college sports ... it was entertainment value for the other students on campus, but also to give people a chance to get an education because of the skill they do have. They shouldn't be discouraged, they should be encouraged in any way possible.''
Paying players is, he said, "a tough argument, I understand, but amateurs make money now,'' pointing to track and field athletes among others whose definition of "amateur'' has changed over the years.
"In college, you're kind of on an island now in terms of these guys,'' he said. "They do get a scholarship -- the scholarship's probably worth here, at Maryland, about $40,000 (a year), so it's not a bad thing. But it gets tough when you see what's out there, and you see the people that kind of take advantage of that situation with the players.''
Williams, who coached Maryland to the 2002 NCAA title, will be inducted next week into the new Hall of Legends at Baltimore's Sports Legends at Camden Yards Museum; also in the inaugural class of state honorees are Babe Ruth, Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson, broadcaster Jim McKay and former Ravens owner Art Modell, who moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1995.