NCAA: No Extra Benefits, Until We Give You Them

Auburn recently put the finishing touches on a new lounge for football players that appears to be more nightclub than football meeting and film room. Though the school is far from alone in such an endeavor, with the impressive space one more example of the sports facility arms race taking place on major college campuses these days.

Auburn Players Lounge An Extra Benefit

It goes without saying that a typical AU student won’t be able to access such plush environs on The Plains unless he or she is part of, player or staff, the football program. But when you consider what the beneficiaries provide the school - financially and otherwise - I have no problem with what amounts to an extra benefit for an NCAA student-athlete.

The irony of such an arrangement though is unavoidable when considering the bedrock of the NCAA student-athlete eligibility rule.

Last year, in meting out the harshest punishment leveled upon a college football program since the SMU Death Penalty, the NCAA noted repeatedly (pdf) in its USC infractions report that the school’s football and basketball programs had allowed for the receipt of extra benefits by USC student-athletes that were unavailable to the institution’s typical students.

The actual NCAA Compliance extra benefits bylaw:

Definition: Extra Benefit (Bylaw 16.02.3) – An extra benefit is any special arrangement by an institutional employee or a representative of the institution’s athletic interests (including fans) to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete’s relative or friend a benefit not expressly authorized by the NCAA legislation. Extra benefit regulations pertain to prospects as well.

Exception for Benefits Available to Other Students (Bylaw 16.01.3) – The receipt of a benefit by a student-athlete or his or her friends that is not authorized by NCAA legislation is not a violation if it is demonstrated that the same general benefit is available to the institution’s students, their relatives, and friends determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability

So probably the most important rule in the NCAA Compliance Handbook states that student-athletes are not allowed special treatment because of their athletic status.

At least, of course, until those athletes enroll at an NCAA member institution.

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