DESTIN, FLA. – South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier emerged from Wednesday afternoon’s meetings with SEC athletic directors and fellow football coaches with a crinkled piece of paper in his hand. And with a raspy, Godfather-like voice — he has been hoarse the past two days — he proceeded to tell media gathered here to cover the SEC meetings that he wants to be able to pay his players out of his own pocket.
“I presented a proposal that we give our football players $300 a game for game expense,” Spurrier told reporters in one of the lobbies in the Sandestin Hilton Beach Resor. “They can give it to their parents for travel, lodging, meals. Maybe they could take their girlfriend out Sunday night or Saturday night and so forth.”
For a fleeting moment it wasn’t clear if Spurrier was joking or being serious. Then he raised the piece of a paper from which he made his proposal. At the bottom were dotted lines with the names of the SEC football coaches underneath. Seven of them included actual the coaches’ signatures. Asked who they were, Spurrier read them off.
“The guys that were willing were [Will] Muschamp, Derek Dooley, [Nick] Saban, Les Miles, Houston Nutt, Dan Mullen and myself,” Spurrier said.
“A bunch of our coaches felt so strongly about it that we’d be willing to pay,” he said. “Seventy guys, 300 bucks a game. That’s only $21,000 bucks a game. I doubt it will get passed. But as coaches, we make all the money, as do universities and television, and we need to give more to our players. That was just something we need to get out there.”
Conspicuously absent from the list was Georgia’s own Mark Richt. I asked him about it as he checked out of the hotel to make his way back to Athens.
“The spirit of wanting to get more financial help for our players is unanimous,” Richt said. “But how to go about it, I’m saying that wouldn’t necessarily be the best way to do it. I didn’t sign it because I didn’t want to say that’s how I felt was the best way to get it done.
“In no way shape or form was I saying I didn’t want to help student-athletes. I 100 percent do. Every single coach in that room wants to do that. We all believe that. But how do you do it without hurting amateurism” How do you do it without tax implications? Maybe it’s through the scholarship becoming more valuable.”
Richt’s sentiments more closely matched those of SEC athletic directors, who generally didn’t take Spurrier’s proposal seriously.
“I don’t think you’re going to see anybody give a stipend to an individual,” Florida AD Jeremy Foley said. “I think this cost of attendance conversation is going to continue and I think that will probably gain some momentum. . . . Coach Spurrier’s desire is part of that conversation. You just couldn’t do it ikndividually in one sport. It will be national legislation.”
The SEC and other BCS conferences are getting behind legislation that would elevate the value of scholarship for student-athletes from just room, board, books, meals and lodging to full cost of living.
Spurrier is realistic in his expectations. More than anything, it seemed like he just wanted to make a point.
“We all make so much money,” he said. “It’s only $300,000 for 14 games. For what us coaches are making nowadays, we’d all love to do that.”