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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)

IRVING, Texas — Conference USA has agreed to pay athletes in at least some sports the full cost of attending college, a decision that could cost schools, including Old Dominion, an average of $500,000 per year, league commissioner Britton Banowsky said.

Speaking at C-USA football media day, Banowsky said conference presidents and athletic directors agreed during a retreat last year that providing the stipend "was the right thing to do."

The five power conferences, including the ACC and SEC, have pushed for greater autonomy from the NCAA in part to begin spending more money on athletes. They have proposed providing a stipend to cover the so-called full cost of attending college, including clothes, transportation and cell phone bills.

Banowsky said that cost, which is set by the financial-aid departments at each school, ranges from $1,500 to $5,000 per student annually at C-USA schools. The average is about $2,500, he said.

"We've looked at the financial model," he said. "It's not insurmountable."

C-USA will follow the lead of the major conferences once they have figured out how to pay the stipend, he said. Athletes likely will begin receiving stipends in the fall of 2015, he said.

He said it will be up to each institution to decide whether all full-scholarship athletes receive a stipend or limit them to a few sports.

July 24, 2014

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