Duke's David Cutcliffe: 'Arian never looked hungry'

lkeeley@newsobserver.comSeptember 24, 2013 

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— Duke football coach David Cutcliffe disagreed Tuesday with one of his former player’s assertions that he went hungry his senior year at Tennessee and said there is much misinformation about the financial help available to college athletes.

During an interview for an upcoming documentary titled “Schooled: The Price of College Sports,” former Tennessee running back Arian Foster, now with the Houston Texans, said he often would run out of money for food and have to choose between eating and paying rent, so he committed an NCAA violation and took money from a booster. Sports Illustrated published excerpts of Foster’s interview last week, in which he also said college athletes deserve to get paid.

Cutcliffe, who was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator during 2006 and 2007, Foster’s sophomore and junior seasons, wasn’t believing his story when asked about it Tuesday, saying, “That may have been as weak of interview as I’ve heard. Arian never looked hungry.”

“As long as I’ve been around it, and it’s a long time, longer than sometimes than I even think, athletes have been treated pretty well. I don’t see anybody getting abused.”

Cutcliffe also said an athlete’s scholarship covers food and rent, adding, “On game day, when you go back to your dorm, you usually got $15 in meal money, and you could buy, I don’t know, 10 tacos maybe.”

“I’m pretty qualified to be informed. We’re not going to let a youngster starve. Before they starve, I’m going to break an NCAA rule to make sure they eat. I’m going to take them home if they can’t pay their rent. If we get to that point, I’m going to house them. It’s not the case. It’s not the case.”

Foster did say during his interview he called his coach in 2008 (he didn’t say which one, but Phillip Fulmer was the Volunteers’ coach at the time), and he brought about 50 tacos for four or five players, which was an NCAA violation.

Cutcliffe wasn’t asked specifically about paying players, but he did caution against the idea of increasing the scholarship amount to cover the “full cost of attendance” for a school. In 2011, NCAA President Mark Emmert proposed giving scholarship athletes a $2,000 stipend, regardless of need, to help with expenses not traditionally covered by athletic aid.

The was soundly defeated by its membership of Division I schools. N.C. State athletics director Debbie Yow, for one, repeatedly has spoken in favor of a stipend. Cutcliffe, though, disagrees.

“Let me tell you what it’s going to do,” Cutcliffe said. “All of that is going to make it so expensive to come to a college athletics event that nobody is going to want to come. Again, we’re not abusing kids. There’s a lot of uninformed people that haven’t seen the day-to-day.”

Cutcliffe added that during his three decades at Division I schools – he was an undergraduate assistant at Alabama and coached at Tennessee, Mississippi, Notre Dame (for a few weeks before resigning because of heart issues) and Duke – he has never met an athlete so destitute that he lacked food and shelter.

“You understand that if they are need-based Pell Grant, every bit of that money goes to them, OK?” Cutcliffe said. “You’re looking at one that was need-based. I thought I had it pretty darn good. You understand what I’m saying?

“There’s already stuff in place that we can spend money-wise. We have a needy student assistance fund. We’ve been able to clothe them. You can fly their parents in if they get hurt. We can fly them home if there’s a tragic death in their family. There’s a lot of education that needs to be done by somebody if none of you have any idea what we can do.”

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