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Spurrier wants to give players money ... from his own pocket

DESTIN, Fla. -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier couldn't speak above a whisper Wednesday. "I lost my voice two days ago," he said, "and I haven't gotten it back."

Stephen Garcia, the oft-suspended quarterback/perpetual-thorn-in-Spurrier's-side who happens to give the Gamecocks the best chance to repeat as SEC East champions, was partially reinstated to the team two days earlier. Coincidence?

Conspiracy theories aside, Spurrier made noise even with his voice crippled. He proposed giving football players a $300-a-game stipend. He offered to pay his players' stipends out of his own salary, and then he recruited six other coaches (Tennessee's Derek Dooley, LSU's Les Miles, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Florida's Will Muschamp, Ole Miss' Houston Nutt and Alabama's Nick Saban) to stand with him and volunteer a piece of their own salaries. In case you were wondering, 85 scholarships times $300 times 12 weeks equals $306,000.

Feel free to call this what you will. Was it a ploy to deflect attention away from the win-or-else mentality that allowed Garcia to come back from yet another suspension? Maybe. Was it a ploy to deflect attention from South Carolina's position in theoversigning debate (the Gamecocks are for it)? Maybe.

Know this: The Head Ball Coach does not say something if he doesn't mean it. It truly bothers Spurrier that he has gotten rich while his players' salary hasn't changed.

"Fifty years ago, there was not any kind of money, and the players got full scholarships," said Spurrier, who is scheduled to make $2.8 million this year. "Now they're still getting full scholarships, and the money is just in the millions. I don't know how to get it done. Hopefully, there's a way to get our guys that play football a little piece of the pie."

Spurrier hopes the players would use the money to help their parents travel to games. He hopes they might buy their girlfriends a nice dinner on Sunday night. He probably understands that plenty might blow their stipends on Xbox games, but the bottom line is he believes everyone is making cash but the people truly earning it. "They bring in the money," Spurrier said. "They're the performers."

Will this happen? Absolutely not. First, the SEC couldn't pass such a rule by itself. "That would be a national issue," Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. Also, it would never pass for only football or only football and men's basketball. That would invite a titanic Title IX lawsuit. Also, it feeds into the full cost of attendance scholarship debate, which is a big budget school vs. small budget school argument that just might be a way for the big money schools to break free of their less wealthy brethren.

But the fact that a sitting major college football coach would say the players deserve a share makes Spurrier's proposal important. Paying players goes against everything the NCAA stands for. It also opens an entirely new Pandora's box of issues; athletes would essentially be employees, which would entitle them to workers' compensation and other benefits. But maybe, as conferences keep signing ever-larger TV deals, it's a serious discussion the schools in the highest income bracket need to have. To call football and men's basketball in the BCS AQ conferences amateur sports is simply laughable. They are a multibillion-dollar business. Why could Ohio State football players affix their autographs to gear and trade that gear for cash and tattoos? Because the market dictated that their signatures were valuable.

Spurrier probably isn't the only coach who feels guilty about the personal wealth he's amassed while his players earned the same scholarship as the nonrevenue athletes whose scholarships were paid for with football money. But Spurrier is one of the few coaches with the guts to say it out loud.

"I doubt it will get passed, but as coaches in the SEC, we make all the money," Spurrier said. "We need to give more to our players."

His proposal won't pass. Not this week. Not next year. Probably not ever. But it might help spark a conversation worth having about how much money has to come in before some of the folks actually earning it get a cut. Getting voted down probably won't hurt Spurrier's feelings. He's accustomed to standing up for ideas despised by the power base.

After all, he's wanted a playoff for years.

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