Lost in the debate over more financial aid for student-athletes in the form of cost-of-attendance scholarships or some other form of stipend is the fact that for a fleeting moment, schools could have provided the $2,000 miscellaneous expense allowance. And the NCAA decided to highlight one of the very few athletes who received it, Alabama gymnast Lauren Beers:
Beers used her $1,000 fall disbursement to travel home for fall break, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Without it, she said, perhaps only one of those trips would have been possible.
Alabama head gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson hopes more stories like Beers’s are told:
I just hope that people can see stories like Lauren Beers, the oldest of seven children, how this afforded her the opportunity to see her family. If we can go case by case and look at the positives of how this was used, maybe the NCAA membership will reconsider.”
It remains to be seen whether the Beers profile is the start of a PR offensive by the NCAA national office. Support for a stipend proposal has ranged from tepid to nonexistent since the original $2,000 miscellaneous expense allowance was defeated. Patterson is correct that more stories like this one may help sway opinion, although the effect is likely to be greater with the public than with the NCAA membership.
But finding enough stories will be difficult. The miscellaneous expense allowance was only available to a very select group of prospects: incoming student-athletes who signed a full grant-in-aid during the November 2011 signing period. From there, subtract all the institutions which were not ready, willing, or able to increase their aid for one or more sports. Even a school like Alabama that gave all its coaches the green light despite the uncertain status of the proposal only had two athletes receive the MEA.