College athletes may not be allowed to get paid, but one college coach wants his players to pay up.
Bill Napier, the head coach of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette football team, said earlier this week that his players on scholarship were required to donate $50 to the Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Foundation, a booster club for the university.
Napier said in a news conference Wednesday that the initiative was all “about gratitude.”
“That’s probably a little bit unheard of and a little bit unique, but I think this is a place where that would be appreciated,” he said. “I think it’s part of the type of program that we want to have. We want our players to be educated and understand the benefits that come with being a student-athlete and that is not something that should be taken lightly — the effort and time and investment that the people that support athletes at UL have put into this program.”
Napier, whose salary was listed at $850,000 last year, said this initiative was “mandatory,” but the school stepped in on Friday and released a statement ensuring that the student-athletes were simply “encouraged” to make a donation to the booster club.
“The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Department of athletics is thrilled that head coach Billy Napier’s football program and its student-athletes expressed their collective desire to give back and show gratitude to the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation,” the school said in a statement. “Members of the football program have started an initiative to demonstrate their appreciation to the RCAF including its board of directors, staff and investors, when they are able to do so.”
The NCAA’s amateurism rule has become an increasingly larger issues as schools continue to generate millions of dollars of revenue from its athletic programs while the athletes are prohibited from receiving compensation or monetizing off their likeness. It has led to a handful of scandals, most recently a fraud and corruption scandal in college basketball.
While UL’s athletic department insists Napier’s initiative is voluntary, his suggestion for his unpaid athletes to donate money to the school that is benefitting off of them certainly brings the amateurism debate back to the forefront.