Pizza and a movie: Players say stipends help pay for basics

By By BOB BAUM 01.10.2016 news > Sports
Alabama team members play a game during media day for the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship in Phoenix, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016. Alabama will face Clemson in Monday's game. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

PHOENIX (AP) — The money isn’t much, especially by the standards of big-time sports, just a couple of hundred dollars a month.

But it’s a lot for a college kid.

And, lest people forget, the football players at Clemson and Alabama who will be facing off Monday for a national title are college kids.

For the first time, players at Power 5 schools receive a “cost of attendance” stipend this season. The stipend is the most significant part of the new autonomy rules that allowed financial help to athletes at schools to cover the difference between scholarship benefits and the so-called “actual” cost of attending the university.

And, Alabama defensive back Maurice Smith said, the money helps “a lot,” whether it goes toward a car payment or for food for the fridge.

Clemson wide receiver Sean Mac Lain said the money he receives might buy a pizza or cover a trip to the movies. Some of the money, Clemson tight end Jesse Fisher said, gets socked away in the bank.

Other players at the College Football Playoff media day Saturday said they might use some of it for a trip back home.

The amount players receive differs from school to school, based on a formula that follows federal guidelines.

Clemson players get about $390 per month over a 10-month span. For Alabama players, it’s about $550 per month.

“Us, as student-athletes do not have the opportunity to go to work like other students,” Clemson defensive end Sterling Johnson said. “Obviously our days are much more consumed with things that we have to be at. My day goes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. mostly and there’s no time for me to get a job. So I think it’s awesome what the NCAA has been able to do.”

As for the money he gets, Johnson said, “mine’s just in the bank. I’m looking long-term.”

Both schools set up bank accounts with automatic deposits.

“I think it’s working great so far,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I think it’s helped our quality of life to some degree and I think that’s always been the goal from my standpoint. We’re always supportive of trying to do more for the players.”

Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson said the players “don’t spend it on nothing stupid.”

“It helped me very much,” he said. “We spend it on things we need, like shoes that we need or clothes, phone bill, cars, travel. … You’ve got to learn how to manage your money and learn what to spend it on and what not to spend it on.”

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney calls the stipend “one of the best things that happened, these guys basically being able to modernize the scholarship from the way it was when I was in school.”

Walk-ons don’t get the cash, but they do get to eat with the team under new rules.

Swinney calls that “probably one of the best changes.”

“You don’t have to feel like a criminal if your walk-on got a bagel,” he said.

Swinney also mentioned rules, instituted last season, that give the parents of players $2,500 to travel to the semifinal playoff games and another $2,500 to go to the championship game.

“I think that’s huge,” Johnson said, saying his parents put the money toward air fare, hotels and other expenses.

The NCAA also allows football programs to provide meals for players through the day and not just here and there.

They are all part of what Swinney calls “great, great common sense changes relevant to 2015.”

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AP College Football website: collegefootball.ap.org

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This version corrects the spelling of Dabo Swinney’s last name.

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