Athletic director John McCutcheon says UMass should be able to handle NCAA changes

Last modified: Thursday, September 04, 2014
AMHERST — If the increased control given to the NCAA’s five biggest conferences Thursday leads to added value to athletic scholarships, UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said he expects the department to be able to handle the potential added cost.

Increasing the value of a scholarship to better cover the full cost of college attendance has long been predicted to be one of the earliest and most significant changes brought about by the NCAA’s change in governing structure.

While the five power conferences — the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac 12 — are expected to unanimously adopt the change, the remaining conferences will have the option of offering the same packages to athletes.

The Atlantic 10 and Mid-American Conference commissioners have indicated that they expected their leagues would participate. Hockey would be less affected as more players are on partial scholarships, which would remain unchanged, than full rides. Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna hasn’t commented publicly on the topic.

To remain Title IX compliant, schools will have to offer the same number of added-value scholarships to men and women.

No other Atlantic 10 school offers either Bowl Subdivision Football or ice hockey. In fact, UMass is the only school in the nation to play basketball, FBS football and hockey in separate conferences.

The other A-10 schools could choose to give value-added scholarships to just their basketball players and remain otherwise unaffected.

But most of UMass’ football players who receive aid are on full rides, as are some hockey players. If the MAC and/or Hockey East choose to adopt the added value, UMass would have to balance those increases with comparable ones for its women’s programs, making their costs likely higher than their A-10 brethren.

McCutcheon, who didn’t have specific figures in front of him, estimated that increasing the value of basketball scholarships for both genders would cost a combined $30,000. It would be $75,000 for football scholarships and another $75,000 for other student athletes receiving full rides, a group that is mostly women and a small number of men’s ice hockey players.

“It’s not an overwhelming addition to our overall scholarship budget. We feel we can deal with it if that situation may arise,” said McCutcheon, who said there would be several options of how to pay for the increased costs, but said it was premature to discuss them.

McCutcheon said other than in basketball, it would actually be possible to make the change without increasing a team’s scholarship budget.

“If sport X has what equates to 10 full scholarships right now, they might have to decide within the same budget to give two full scholarships that include the cost of attendance and parcel out the rest of the money however they see as most effective. We probably won’t do that with men’s and women’s basketball, but it’s conceivable we could do that with football. To make up the difference of $75,000, which is essentially three full scholarships, so instead of 85 (scholarships) we may do 82 at the full-cost of attendance.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage