Small conferences and small college athletes, especially at HBCUs, have been completely left out of the pay-for-play conversation that has seemingly been a hot-button issue ever since schools have realized they could generate revenue from unpaid labor.

While most of these compensation discussions have centered around football and basketball players at the elite Division I or BCS level in the wake of the Ed O’Bannon court case and Northwestern’s football team attempt to unionize, HBCU athletes have expressed interest they’d like to get a slice of the pie as well.

“It sucks,” Alabama State senior defensive tackle Derrick Billups said during the recent SWAC Media Day. “I feel like we deserve money, but I don’t really complain about it. It would help out a whole lot if student-athletes received money because it’s tough in college. All our parents aren’t blessed financially.”

“I try not to pay attention to it because it’s not going to happen,” Mississippi Valley State senior receiver Julian Stafford said. “That’s how I see it, but it would be a nice thing if we did get paid.”

The impact of possible increased compensation beyond a scholarship remains to be seen, although many HBCU athletic leaders agree such a move could inevitably  have a negative impact on the books for many schools already struggling to stay in the black.

“If they started paying players — players who have the ability to come to a I-AA maybe because of tradition — we’re going to lose those players,” Arkansas-Pine Bluff head coach Monte Coleman said. “We do compete with them on a small scale with some kids, but if they said, ‘I’m going to give you $1,000 a month,’ or whatever it is, that kid is going to leave us and go there.”

Even though schools might be faced with the reality of competing with other Division I schools with deeper pockets for recruits, all the athletes — the most important assets in this who equation — want is to be compensated for all the sacrifices they make to support themselves

Texas Southern quarterback Homer Causey said extra cash to cover basic needs should be a reasonable demand.

“You’d want to keep some food in the room,” Causey said. “Some needs, some hygiene needs. Maybe have a couple of dollars to go to the movies and spend the money on some things that you’d like to do.”

At Morehouse, everybody on our team is less than half,” said Morehouse senior tailback Shelton Hamilton, a Montgomery native. “A lot of guys on our team have to take out loans.

“A lot of our players don’t have meal plans because we don’t have the scholarships to do that,” he said. “So a lot of our players don’t eat unless it’s game week. They should give something to make sure all players are fed and can travel home if they need to.”

It is eye-opening to hear this perspective coming from football players not associated with big-time athletic programs. We have often been under the false impression that all FCS and Division II athletes are participating in college sports simply for the love of the game.

These comments present a picture that not only debunks, but destroys that ideal image many have held of small college athletes. On the other hand, we really shouldn’t be surprised at all.

They see the amount of dollars being thrown around to head coaches, assistants, athletic directors and the like that they had a big part in creating.  At the end of the day, like you and I, they enjoy being taken care of by those who they work for.

The modern college athlete is far removed from the meathead, uneducated stereotype we have so long thought them to be. No longer are they silent and apathetic.

They’re on the brink of changing the landscape of intercollegiate athletics. The NCAA and its member institutions better be prepared.



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