Iowa Hawkeyes

The "soft dollar" benefits of a Division I athletics scholarship

The Iowa Hawkeyes swarm as they take the field before their football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Iowa Hawkeyes swarm as they take the field before their football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Editor’s note: Jonathan Yates teaches “The Politics of Sports” at the University of Iowa. First in a three-part series.

Athletes at Iowa State, Iowa, Northern Iowa, and other schools throughout the country, receive benefits far superior to anything else offered to a high school graduate.

Obvious are the “hard dollar” features such as tuition, room and board. Adding greatly, and many times worth even more than the hard dollar value, are the “soft dollar” components of a college sports scholarships — things like coaching, professional services and goods.

Average earnings of a high school graduate are around $20,000. Iowa will spend more than $126,000 for each of its 806 athletes based on its budget of around $102 million.

Tuition and room and board at Iowa ranges from about $23,000 for in-state to $45,000 for out-of-state students.

The soft dollar spending makes the benefits received by a college student-athlete on scholarship in Iowa even more stunning.

Much of this comes from coaching, both in the classroom and on the playing fields. In football, Iowa will spend about $8 million for coaches. There are 85 players. Soft dollar spending for a Hawkeye football player comes in at around $94,000.

Football players at Iowa State and Northern Iowa benefit, too.

Iowa State spends about $4.5 million for football coaches. Each Cyclone player receives soft dollar benefits here of nearly $53,000.

Athletes in other sports gain greatly from coaching leadership. Athletics directors and others in sports administration coach student-athletes, too, with leadership, academic guidance, and career advice in sports and school.

The value of this coaching, both on and off the playing field, is invaluable for many factors.

It helps to further develop the student-athlete as an adult, teaching responsibility, discipline and teamwork to a teenager away from home for the first time. There are tremendous career advantages from being coached. Obviously, it makes it easier to go into coaching after college.

Most athletics directors are former college athletes, too, and attribute what they learned as a player for their career success. Gary Barta, the athletics director at Iowa, played football at North Dakota State University. Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard was a Hall of Fame distance runner for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. A defensive tackle for the University of Mississippi, David Harris worked his way through college sports administration to eventually become the athletics director at UNI.

There also is substantial coaching off the field, too.

Schools have squads of tutors, nutritionists, mental health professionals, among others. There are arrangements with financial institutions to provide student-athletes with counseling in money matters. These skilled professionals provide guidance and advice in every aspect of college life and beyond for the student-athlete.

Much of the procession of life comes from making mistakes. The coaching provided on and off the field helps to minimize these mistakes. This is a tremendous asset available only to players in such magnitude.

Prospering in a career comes from this academic and athletics coaching that help make teenager players into successful adults.

Expert advice in studying, eating, health care, financial affairs and other areas augment the leadership and guidance from the sports coaches. This is a major reason why scholarship athletes graduate at a high rate and make more over the course of their careers than other students.

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