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Cost of attendance is only a number everybody's made up

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Power 5 conferences last year voted almost unanimously to implement full cost-of-attendance scholarships, beginning with the 2015-16 academic year. This means that athletes in the key revenue-producing sports will be compensated beyond the value of a traditional scholarship, but where the "traditional scholarship" ends and "cost of attendance" begins is already confusing.

To this point the numbers have been rooted mostly in speculation, and it seems with every update, the numbers are different. Take a look at this report from Andrea Adelson in April, and compare them to Jon Solomon's survey numbers this week. There are so many caveats to Solomon's data, I lost count. "Such-and-such school has a $ figure for in-state students, and so-and-whatnot figure for out-of-state students."

It's a lot to take in, but if we accept Solomon's survey figures as concrete evidence of not only how this varies between schools but between athletes at a school, it's pretty tough to assess the initial impact of these scholarships.

This is not an argument against full cost-of-attendance scholarships, nor is it a call for uniformity across the country. The cost of living does vary from place to place (surprise!). The players deserve every last cent they are promised; football players make the entire athletics department possible, and basketball players make Jim Nantz possible. For that the former should be commended, and the latter assured that it's not their fault.

Thing is, we know NC State has been trying to conjure up some COA money in a dishonest manner. Everyone is doing this, because how do you honestly track some number based on a vague formula with a bunch of variables? You don't. The NCAA is already too busy and PR-dead to matter. This is another item on the to-do pile. Mark Emmert has forgotten half of his to-do pile.

Cost-of-attendance may be in the details, or the fifty-thousand-dollar hammer; we just don't know yet. Which do you ignore, and to what degree? The NCAA has neither the time nor the lawyers to become a cousin of the IRS.

This year is a freebie, and long-term, maybe the differences in cost of attendance don't matter. But let's not forget that this year is a freebie.