I know I'm a little late to the party, so to speak, posting on Georgia's stipend "scandal." Nevertheless, I wanted to take somewhat of a different approach to the story, and had to make a few phone calls prior to putting together a piece.
When hearing of the players' double dipping their $71.50 stipend checks, my first thoughts weren't of their stupidity or possible suspension, but the $71.50—what exactly is this amount for and how often do players receive it? I guess it's the UGA graduate in finance in me finally coming out...
I called a friend of mine, who played under Richt during the 2000s, and asked if he could expand on the $71.50 amount. At that point, the only detail regarding the checks' amounts/frequency was the little provided by AD McGarity: "We're not going to get into times, amounts of checks, frequency of checks...They receive checks periodically throughout the year."
Player of 2000s: "I'm pretty sure, since that amount is close to what we got, their stipend is for meals missed, primarily for Sundays when the dining hall is closed. They get that stipend twice a semester. The funny thing is we actually got a little more than that—more than $71.50 per stipend."
$71.50 twice a semester equals roughly a whopping $35 per month, or just over $1 a day. Now, don't go spending it all in one place...
I was then compelled to reach out to Bulldog players from preceding decades, and see what they received in amounts from the school/athletic department beyond tuition, board, books, etc. "Not much," a player from the 1960s informed me. He then literally went and retrieved his 50-year-old scholarship and read from it over the phone.
Player of 1960s: "You will be provided $15 a month—$10 for laundry and $5 for missed meals (laughing). $15 wasn't much, even way back then."
The player from the 1970s first wanted to say he was grateful for the scholarship he received and the free college education and room and board—opportunities he and nearly all of his teammates likely wouldn't have benefitted from if not for being standout football players in high school. "However, I’d guess more than half of the players during my time came from just below a middle-class background and lower," he added. "Therefore, your average player received very little money, if any at all, sent from home."
Player of 1970s: "We got just $10 per month for what they called 'extra cleaning allowance,' but we always called it our 'laundry check' and we always cashed it at what is now the Kangaroo Express near the Butts-Mehre. I always wondered why it was called a 'laundry check' when we had a facility that did our laundry for free. Still, laundry was about the only thing we didn’t have to spend any money on."
The other two players I contacted—one each from the 1980s and 1990s—didn't recall set amounts or how often, but each remember the money was "for stuff essentially coming to you anyway (i.e., meals, laundry, etc.)," one stated. "If we were coming back from a road trip, and the dining hall was going to be closed by the time we got back to campus, instead of $10 for our per diem, I might find $20 in an envelope for meals."
|Oh, if these walls could talk... McWhorter Hall, |
the former players' dorm, where double dipping on
stipend checks would've been considered child's play.
As the interviews I've conducted of former UGA players have mounted up over the past several years, the more I've become aware that the idea of players consistently receiving excessive handouts from coaches, wealthy boosters and alumni, etc., is rather absurd. The rumors of a house for momma, a tractor for daddy, and a suitcase of cash for the player are, for the most part, pure myths. Although most players get a free education, room and board, and some even receive grants, they have very little, if any, spending money and it's not like they can go out and get a part-time job delivering pizza, or the like.
Speaking of delivering pizza, one of the five players I spoke to admitted to stealing pizzas from delivery cars while playing for Georgia. When the delivery men wised up after a while and starting locking their cars, players started approaching them face to face, threatening them to hand over free pizzas. Nothing ever came of the pizza-stealing incidents.
Another player actually admitted that he and a couple of other players once donned ski masks, entered a convenient store, and while the man behind the counter was still begging "please don't hurt me," each walked out with an arm full of not cash, but snacks. "Obviously, I'm really embarrassed about it now," he admitted. "It all seemed harmless at the time – a way we could get our hands on a free meal. But, filling our bellies with free food did not fill our pockets. For some of my teammates, having the money to buy new clothes, shoes, jewelry, or to take a girl out for some dinner and entertainment called for drastic measures..." The player stopped there without elaborating.
Pizza stealing, convenient store robberies, or even "drastic measures," it was all normally kept under wraps when found out.
I once interviewed a Georgia assistant coach from the 1970s, who made a statement so profound regarding player discipline then and now and media exposure, I promptly jotted down his quote: "If a player got in big trouble back then, we brought him in the office, and just handled it. For most things, nobody had to find out what went on, especially the damn media."
What Matthews, Taylor, DeLoach, and LeMay pulled was undoubtedly stupid, and perhaps Georgia doesn't need these type of characters on its team. With that being said, and without making excuses for the four, there are probably people reading this blog right now who, whether in high school, college, or even as a professional, "cheated" a bit to receive a little extra money, while thinking you'd never be caught. And, for some, even if you were eventually reprimanded, perhaps it was kept under wraps.
The four players obviously needed money and thought of a way—albeit, a rather flawed way—of making a little more because, simply put, $35 per month, whether spent on food, laundry, or whatever, doesn't cut it—not even close.
"When one of us got into trouble, we'd either work it out with the coaches or we had a 'guy' we called," added one of the players I contacted, who wouldn't identify the "guy." "Then, unless it was really, really serious, the problem could usually go away."
For what my two cents are worth, there is no longer that "guy" at UGA for athletes to call, while the public exposure these athletes now encounter can be quite overwhelming. Discipline issues, whether really serious or not, like attempting to "earn" the equivalent of $70 spending cash per month instead of merely $35, have gone on for decades. But now, everybody finds out everything that went on—nothing can be kept under wraps—thanks in large part to, whether it's social or mainstream, and as the former assistant coach described it, "the damn media."