J.R. Carroll, one of two agents in Arkansas representing NFL players, said Monday the prospect of college athletes receiving better compensation has never been better. Speaking at the Clinton School of Public Service Carroll, also a professor in sports law at the University of Arkansas, said after a whirlwind year of court rulings the path has been laid for stipends for student-athletes but not professional-level salaries.
“I think that there is a ground swell for allowing a small stipend. But I think once you get past that small stipend there would be a reverse ground swell that says, ‘these individuals are in college, if you want to be a professional athlete go somewhere and do it but not at college,’” said Carroll.
Carroll, the NFL agent of former Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett, said increased compensation will also likely take the form of better medical compensation and requiring athletic scholarships to be four-year offers. While some of the largest schools, with profitable and competitive football programs, dominate the discussion Carroll said he expects changes to scholarships such as stipends and longer-term medical care will filter down to all types of sports.
“If you give it to the football team I think you’re going to see a Title IX action filed fairly quickly that says you’re treating these male student-athletes differently than female student-athletes. I think that, quite honestly, if you’re going to provide a stipend it should be across the board. It should not be a fee generated stipend,” said Carroll.
These relatively modest stipends, perhaps rising to $6,000 at a major Division I school, fall far short of professional level salaries as well as revenue being generated by some college programs. Carroll said the University of Alabama’s enormously successful football program has generated over $600 million in private donations since 2006 with a coach, like Arkansas’s Bret Bielema, paid in the millions.
Court decisions against the NCAA could still change in the appeals process. But so far they've pointed in one direction: better player compensation. One ruling found the NCAA can’t prevent schools from offering a share of sports revenue to players. A second found athletic scholarships to be tantamount to contracts and players to be employees.