Stipends for UH athletes could cost nearly $1M a year - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Stipends for UH athletes could cost nearly $1M a year

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The University of Hawaii Athletic Department, already $3.5 million in the red this year, will have to come up with more money shortly to remain competitive with other schools that are spending significantly more money on benefits for athletes allowed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The NCAA is expected to start allowing universities to pay athletes stipends starting in the next year or so. It's a major change in college sports driven by the five biggest revenue-producing conferences in the country.

So financially-struggling UH will be scrambling to find the funds to keep up, according to UH Athletics Director Ben Jay.

"We're at a brink. We are at a large brink in terms of what's going to happen with UH athletics. And that's what I want to make clear to the public," Jay said.

When the NCAA starts allowing schools to pay athletes stipends, those new expenses could cost UH anywhere from $803,441 to $964,050 a year, Jay said.

Each full-scholarship UH athlete would be eligible to be paid a maximum of $3,543 a year, on top of having tuition, room and board and books covered by the university.

"You have the Big Five conferences with all the money that they have being able to pay these types of stipends. Where does that leave mid-major schools like Hawaii at?" Jay asked.

Jay said larger schools with more money will start offering athletes stipends as high as $7,000 a year, double the maximum for Hawaii.

"That's a major concern of ours in the mid majors right now as to how are we going to be able to afford to stay up with the Joneses?" Jay said.

Another NCAA rule change this year meant for the first time, UH is spending anywhere from $350,000 to $400,000 on meals for athletes in season. But other schools plan to offer unlimited meals to athletes the entire school year.

"We're not able to pay for ourselves right now. We need external help from our fans, our boosters, our businesses and possibly the state legislature for help, because the institution is only able to help us so far," Jay said.

Jay said leaving Division One would not save UH much money.

"It doesn't make sense to go down to Division Two or Division Three. The cost involved in things like that is just as great, because of where we are. We have to travel no matter what," Jay said.

As UH athletics grapples with increasing travel costs and tries to get out of its $3.5 million deficit, Jay is concerned UH will fall further behind bigger universities that are asking the NCAA to allow other expensive benefits to help student athletes, such as lifetime tuition waivers and extended health benefits.

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