In explaining Jermaine Marshall’s decision to leave Penn State, head men’s basketball coach Pat Chambers points at least part of a finger at the NCAA:
“Jermaine does get Pell Grant for his – service provided through the NCAA when you do have a child so there’s additional funds there, but obviously not the funds you need to support a girlfriend and a child and yourself,” head coach Pat Chambers said in the conference call.
So, if the NCAA provided the sufficient funds for student-athletes, would there be a chance that Marshall would return for his final year of eligibility?
“Yea, I think that’s why he made the decision,” Chambers added. “If the NCAA could help out in the situation where Jermaine has a son, if they could give more money, yeah, I mean yeah, I would be all for that. You know it’s unfortunate, but you know he has a son and his son is great, he’s a great kid. If the NCAA could give up some money I think he’d still be a Nittany Lion.”
Chambers’s initial quote is a bit confusing. The NCAA does not provide Pell Grants, the federal government does. The NCAA has programs like the Student Assistance Fund plus a number of exceptions for athletes who have children. And there is always the possibility of a waiver.
The idea that the NCAA or a school could provide more for athletes with children is more workable than it sounds. One easy solution would be to allow a school (or the NCAA) to match an athlete’s Pell Grant if they have a child. That could be further limited to only athletes who are the primary caregiver for the child. Free day-care at a university facility could also be a permissible extra benefit for athletes (although waiting lists for those are often very long).
Aside from simply providing money or services to athletes, schools and the NCAA could also help athletes help themselves. Ensuring that athletes get all the right tax breaks and credits would be as helpful as double Pell Grants and free day-care.