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Harvard Football Coach In Support of Athlete Stipends

By E. Benjamin Samuels, Crimson Staff Writer

Amidst the recent string of controversies surrounding college football—including allegations of illegal payments to student athletes—Harvard football coach Tim Murphy said he would support contentious NCAA reforms that would offer additional need-based stipends to student-athletes at the majority of Division-I schools.

Proponents say the changes would help athletes—who often spend up to 30 hours a week between practices, workouts, and games—cover day-to-day expenses that normal students can defray by working jobs.

Despite mixed opinions from college coaches around the country, Murphy said he felt that a stipend was merited due to the rigors of the student-athlete lifestyle.

“Ten years ago, I would have been adamant that we should not pay major college athletes ... because we are paying them—through scholarship,” he said. “But ... I think you should consider an Ivy-League approach to any payment after room, board, or tuition, books, and fees.”

But Murphy said he doesn’t believe these reforms should extend to Harvard—or any other schools in the Ancient Eight.

“One of the great things about the Ivy League is that they don’t distinguish between the kid who plays women’s basketball or the kid who plays the cello or plays in the band, and they shouldn’t,” Murphy said. “Everyone’s in the same boat from that standpoint, and I think that’s the way you want to keep it.”

The Ivy League is distinct from the rest of Division I in other ways as well. The league does not offer athletic scholarships, unlike most other D-I conferences. In addition, the league is one of the few members of the Football Championship Subdivision that does not participate in playoffs, and is the only D-I league that does not host a conference tournament for men’s basketball.

In addition to serving as Harvard’s head coach, Murphy is also the first vice president of the American Football Coaches Association, and will serve a one-year term as its president in 2012. Though he called the position “ceremonial,” a number of important figures in American college football serve with him on the organization’s board, including head coaches at the University of Texas, University of Georgia, and Texas Christian University.

Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel—who was allegedly complicit in NCAA rule violations by a number of his players—also sat on the board at the beginning of the year.

Murphy said he recognized the complexity of the current problems in college athletics and the difficulties that major reforms would entail.

“Whatever they decide ... at the scholarship level ... it’s not going to solve all of the problems they think they have,” he said. “It’s going to be imperfect.”

—Staff writer E. Benjamin Samuels can be reached at samuels@college.harvard.edu.

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