CHICAGO - The concept of monetary compensation to pay for expenses not covered by an athletic scholarship has been around decades.
Twenty years ago Chris Webber expressed his frustration at not having the money for Big Mac at a time when college basketball fans were shelling out 50 dollars for his jersey at stores around the University of Michigan campus.
Webber's sentiments were captured by Mitch Albom in his 1994 bestseller Fab Five, Basketball, Trash Talk, The American Dream. The book generated a measure of public support for the concept of providing student athletes monetary compensation beyond their athletic scholarships to pay for expenses related to everyday college life such as fuel, parking, entertainment, and car repairs.
Webber's frustration was disingenuous. Less than a decade after Fab Five was published, disgraced Michigan booster Ed Martin disclosed that he had made payments totaling $280,000 to Webber between 1988 and 1993 during statements required by a federal plea deal for running an illegal lottery at the Ford plant where he worked.
College athletics has not been rocked with a scandal as big as the one that hit the Michigan basketball program during the late 1990s, but both college football and basketball have had dozens of high-profile incidents involving compliance-related issues since that time.
The recent scandal at Ohio State involving Terrelle Pryor and several other Buckeye stars selling memorabilia ultimately cost Buckeye football coach Jim Tressel his job and his reputation. The scandal has also re-opened the debate on whether college athletes should be compensated above and beyond their tuition and room and board.
Coaches and players from each football program represented at Big Ten Media Days earlier this week in Chicago were asked to weigh in on the debate over additional financial compensation for student athletes. The most eloquent and well-thought response came from Michigan State senior Kirk Cousins.
The Spartan quarterback is not taking a stance in the debate. But the three-year captain and three-year starter firmly believe that the complicated issue should be examined in depth by the NCAA.
Click below to here Cousins' perspective on the debate over student-athlete compensation.