Why Are Free Cars OK For College Coaches But Not Players?S

It's a well-established fact that big NCAA programs mean big money. For coaches that often means big perks, too. And while it's wrong to give would-be players free cars, there's no such hesitation on the part of colleges to hand out keys like candy to coaches.

A group of Kent State University journalism students uncovered documents showing who ultimately pays for the cars and how athletic departments encouraging coaches to shower car dealers with gifts and favors.

Using skills taught in Karl Idsvoog's computer assisted reporting class, students found paperwork from Central Michigan University's athletic program urging car sponsored coaches to treat car dealerships "like a recruit … make a personal investment in the relationship."

Some programs offered coaches free cars, others stipends ranging from $250 to $480 per month (although some stipends could be used for purposes other than vehicular purchases). The most generous programs tended to be in the Mid-America Conference, which covers a parts of car-centric Michigan, surprise surprise. Coaches defended the practice, saying that athletic programs rely upon coaching staffs and their cars to recruit strong players, an obligation that can involve a lot of driving.

Why Are Free Cars OK For College Coaches But Not Players?S

If the piece doesn't tell sports fans something they didn't already know or suspect, it does highlight a debate amongst those concerned about higher education regarding the differences — real or perceived — between the value of academics versus athletics.

Since many of the sports programs canvassed by Kent State's aspiring reporters pay for coaches' cars with student fees, some argue that the cost isn't fair to non athlete students. With the President touring the nation to discuss the rising cost of higher education (and some students' difficulty getting federal loans), it's a poignant question to ask.

Photo credit: Getty

(Hat tip to Jim Romenesko!)