Big Ten eliminates athlete bonuses

Student-athletes may get up to $3,380 in gifts over the season.

by Michael Rietmulder

Every year, the college basketball season culminates with the excitement of postseason tournaments. This seasonâÄôs NCAA menâÄôs basketball tournament field has already been winnowed down to 16 teams competing for a chance to reach the Final Four in Indianapolis April 3 and 5. March Madness generates millions of dollars for the NCAA and its member universities and conferences every year. But the institutions arenâÄôt the only ones benefitting from the money generated by college athletics. Student-athletes are also rewarded with gifts for their participation in both the regular-season and postseason tournaments. Conferences offer portable DVD players, HD camcorders and Nintendo Wii packages as gifts to participants in postseason tournaments. This year, the Southeastern Conference is offering players a choice between items including a digital camera and an Apple iPod Touch. Such gifts can be quite an expense for the conferences, which is why the Big Ten has decided to abstain from the practice. By refraining from gift-giving across all sports, the conference expects to save about $300,000 this year, according to a report by Street and SmithâÄôs Sports Business Journal. âÄúThe administrators voted to discontinue student-athlete gifts for all of our championships,âÄù Big Ten Assistant Commissioner Scott Chipman said, who described the decision as a âÄúcost containmentâÄù measure. The Pac-10 and Mid-American conferences also adopted this policy. University of Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi said he supported the Big TenâÄôs decision. Chipman said the suspension of gifts was for this season only and that the issue would likely be re-evaluated at future administrative meetings. Dan Butterly, associate commissioner for the Mountain West Conference, said the conference discussed eliminating the gifts last May but decided âÄúthis was not an area we wanted to look at cost containment.âÄù âÄúItâÄôs a reward to the student-athletes for being a part of the Mountain West Conference and participating and trying their best all season long,âÄù Butterly said. Butterly said each basketball team playing in the MWC tournaments this season received 22 gifts âÄî 15 for players and seven to be distributed among staff members. Conferences arenâÄôt the only sources of student-athlete gifts, as universities and the NCAA may provide them as well. âÄúYou have NCAA rules as to when you can provide something and when you cannot,âÄù Maturi said of gifts given by schools. NCAA guidelines also set maximum values for various types of gifts. For example, annual participation gifts from institutions must not exceed $175 for underclassmen or $325 for seniors. Universities can also give gifts valued up to $325 for participating in both conference and NCAA tournaments. Gophers menâÄôs basketball spokesman Matt Slieter said he was not aware of players receiving any gifts directly from the University for playing in the NCAA tournament last week. According to data compiled by Street and SmithâÄôs Sports Business Journal, Division I basketball players have the potential to earn gifts from universities, conferences and the NCAA totaling up to $3,230 for underclassmen and $3,380 for seniors.