Athlete stipend plan concerning

The University of Minnesota is preparing to give stipends that could total more than $2,000 each to student-athletes in all sports, the Pioneer Press reported Thursday.

Those payments are contingent on NCAA cost-of-attendance legislation, which should be voted on by Dec. 1. The average difference between a University scholarship and the full cost of attendance is $2,194 per year, the Press reported, and the idea behind this move is to make up for that gap.

This gap has been the subject of great discussion, debate and legal battles in college athletics. Schools and athletics officials have claimed they should be able to pay their athletes’ tuition and living expenses while also throwing them extra spending money. In essence, this would be paying amateur athletes.

Student-athletes at Northwestern University have tried to form a union, and the National Labor Relations Board ruled that those players were university employees. A federal judge earlier this fall let two lawsuits move forward that allege the NCAA is illegally capping scholarships at levels less than actual college attendance costs.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney is even trying to get insurance for injured athletes.

These instances are just a few recent events that show moves toward the professionalization of collegiate athletics. The University’s recent announcement is another questionable step toward effectively removing the amateur status of student-athletes.

As the University moves closer to possibly implementing this new plan, leaders need to remember that the University is an educational institution first, not an athletics organization. With that, athletes should be treated as students first — not paid professionals.