Fitzgerald answers questions about compensation in student forum

Chris Johnson

Football coach Pat Fitzgerald spoke Monday night at a rather informal, Q & A-formatted event held by Northwestern’s “Political Union” regarding paid compensation of student athletes. Fitzgerald clearly and thoroughly expressed his desire for some type of need-based student payment plan, something along the lines of today’s student financial aid programs. It should be noted, however, that Fitzgerald is by no means a crusader for the instant implementation of some type of pay-for-play plan; he simply spoke his mind at the request of the NU Political Union.

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from the discussion:

“I’m in favor of supporting athletes financially.”

When asked about the recently revoked $2,000 NCAA student-athlete stipend:

“There are a lot of different phases being bantered around, but there are an overwhelming majority of our players who would need that $2,000, for whom the financial issues may not be that overwhelming. There’s another group, for whom that $2,000 would be nowhere near enough to help them.”

When asked about the specifics of a student-athlete payment plan:

“I haven’t seen a model that I would fully support just yet. I think it should be looked at in the same way that you look at financial aid. You need to figure out a way to prorate it [money] based on financial need.”

“The payment needs to be specific to each school. The cost of living at one school can be completely different from another school, so you have to find a way to compensate for that.”

When asked about whether or not to limit the payment to revenue-generating sports:

“I am against having the stipend for just football and basketball. When you have 19 varsity sports, and only two are making revenue, you could run into a problem. Does this start to become a catalyst for a change in the landscape in college athletics? Do those non-revenue-generating sports just become inter-murals eventually?”

When asked if the university brand rather than the athlete is responsible for the revenue generated in college athletics:

“I think it starts with the university. I believe that the game that’s on the field now is as entertaining as it’s ever been. There is a combination of the branding of the university and the allegiance and the pride and the passion that students and alums have that will always be there.”