The recently approved cost-of-attendance stipends that began putting a few thousand extra dollars a year into the pockets of NCAA student-athletes isn't a problem for Notre Dame president John I. Jenkins. But a system where athletes are paid to perform at the college level isn't one Jenkins wants to be part of, he says. In fact, such a system would compel Notre Dame and its steeped tradition to withdraw from participation in major college football and form a more education-based league, Jenkins told The New York Times.
"Perhaps institutions will make decisions about where they want to go -- a semipro model or a different, more educational model -- and I welcome that," Jenkins said. "I wouldn't consider that a bad outcome, and I think there would be schools that would do that."
As of now, the idea of giving athletes more of college football's revenue pie is in square-one mode. The cost-of-attendance stipends are intended to help all student-athletes cover more costs associated with attending college that a scholarship alone does not cover. While COA stipends were a resounding victory for advocates of student-athletes, another bite at the apple isn't even in a planning stage. As such, the school isn't likely to find itself at the crossroads Jenkins envisions anytime soon. Jenkins has concerns about how the Ed O'Bannon legal case, which has opened the door for athletes to be compensated for use of their name and likeness, might manifest itself. The NCAA is appealing the O'Bannon case ruling.
"That really does, it seems to me, move a student from student to employee," he said. "And that, as I say, does some violence to that educational relationship."
Nevertheless, Notre Dame leaving the major college game to establish its own brand of football would represent a paradigm shift for college sports. There's a reason why discussions on the structure of the playoff couldn't, wouldn't, and didn't progress without Notre Dame's interests represented at every turn. After all, this is a school with its own contract with NBC and a national following matched by few, if any, other programs.