The landscape of college athletics is changing rapidly. As part of that process the University of Maryland announced it will guarantee financial aid for the duration of a student-athlete's education pursuits, even if he or she is no longer active in athletics.
Maryland Athletics announced the decision, which goes into effect beginning November 2014-15, on its official site. The goal is to provide all athletes, not just those in the major sports, with assistance beyond the typical one-year scholarship that's handed out and must be renewed on a yearly basis.
In doing so, it becomes one of the first schools to make such a commitment to every athlete. Director of athletics Kevin Anderson discussed the hope of making the guarantee.
"Our vision is to be the best intercollegiate athletic program while producing graduates who are prepared to serve as leaders in the local, state and global communities," he said. "We are confident 'The Maryland Way Guarantee' will further demonstrate our commitment to our student-athletes’ pursuit of a college degree."
Maryland is part of the Big Ten Conference, which is one of the power conferences that can now allow its schools to write their own rules on the compensation for student-athletes. The announcement comes less than two weeks after that change was passed by the board of directors for Division I.
Brian Bennett of ESPN.com provided details of the ruling:
The NCAA Division I board of directors on Thursday voted 16-2 to allow the schools in the top five conferences to write many of their own rules. The autonomy measures—which the power conferences had all but demanded—will permit those leagues to decide on things such as cost-of-attendance stipends and insurance benefits for players, staff sizes, recruiting rules and mandatory hours spent on individual sports.
The fear, of course, is that it will create a virtual arms race between the top programs and leave the mid-major schools even further behind in recruiting.
Maryland is seemingly trying to get ahead of the curve with the lifetime commitment while still keeping the focus on education.
Roman Stubbs of The Washington Post reported last week that Maryland athletics "raised more than $8.6 million in unrestricted giving for the fiscal year of 2014." It represented an increase of $500,000, which should help finance the education guarantee.
How these changes are going to shake out is anybody's guess at this point. A larger investment into student-athletes can be expected, but exactly how much and to what lengths power-conference programs go won't be known until the dust settles.
Maryland is one of the first to make a significant wide-scale change, but it may still need to make further altercations once it sees what its rivals do. It's a topic that's likely going to generate plenty of headlines in the months and years ahead.