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Oregon will take care of its athletes

EUGENE — Before signing a five-year, $17.5 million contract extension, Oregon football coach Mark Helfrich said one of the topics of conversation on the recruiting trail has been the full cost of attendance for future Ducks.

The Power 5 conferences, including the Pac-12, passed legislation at the NCAA convention last month which included a full cost-of-attendance measure. As a result, beginning Aug. 1, schools may opt to give scholarship athletes an additional stipend to cover cost-of-living expenses not included in their base scholarships.

Oregon’s athletic department said it intends to add the student-athlete stipends when the rule change goes into effect.

“We’re in a place where we’re very fortunate that we can do everything possible,” Helfrich said on national signing day after putting together another top-20 class. “From a legality standpoint, we can budgetarily handle every possible thing for all of our student-athletes. That’s a huge deal.”

A traditional athletic scholarship covers tuition, fees, room and board, and books. According to UO, the athletic department budgeted $10.9 million for these costs last year for 385 athletic scholarships.

According to UO’s calculations for 2014-15, the scholarship value is $22,065 for state residents living on campus ($20,733 off campus) and $43,035 for non-residents living on campus ($41,703 off campus).

The estimated personal expenses for an undergraduate to attend UO in 2014-15 is $2,340. This full-cost-of-attendance figure is determined by a federal formula that includes transportation and other miscellaneous expenses.

While the university has not yet established tuition and fee rates for 2015-16, based on the 2014-15 numbers the athletic department is looking at a budget increase of roughly $900,900 to cover the full cost of attendance.

Oregon senior associate athletic director for marketing and public relations Craig Pintens said football season-ticket prices — the department’s primary revenue generator — will not be increased for the 2015 season and the new costs will have to be absorbed elsewhere.

The athletic department also has the added expenses of pay raises for Helfrich, whose base salary was bumped from $2 million to $3.15 million, and his staff after the Ducks’ run to the national championship game.

In addition, the NCAA’s decision to allow student-athletes — including walk-ons — to receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation will add approximately $750,000 to the athletic department budget.

Pintens said the process of putting together the 2015-16 budget begins in a few weeks. Athletic director Rob Mullens and his staff will have to determine if the roughly $3 million in increased costs can be covered by new revenue streams and/or if cuts will have to be made.

The athletic department does not receive any direct financial support from UO.

Oregon offers 133 full scholarships in five NCAA “head count” sports — football (85), women’s basketball (15), men’s basketball (13), women’s volleyball (12) and women’s tennis (8).

The remaining 252 scholarships offered by the athletic department can be divided into full and partial scholarships over any number of student-athletes in the “equivalency” sports Oregon participates in — baseball, cross country/track and field, men’s and women’s golf, women’s lacrosse, women’s soccer, women’s softball and men’s tennis — as well as acrobatics and tumbling, which is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport.

The Division I Board of Directors granted autonomy to the Power 5 conferences — a group that also includes the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC — last August to create rules free of the full NCAA membership.

Group of 5 schools, formerly “non-BCS” programs such as Boise State, can also adopt any of the changes made by the richer conferences.

The Pac-12 announced in October that beginning in 2016-17 its membership institutions will guarantee athletic scholarships for four years for student-athletes in all sports and that medical expenses for student-athletes who are injured during their college athletic careers will be covered for up to four years after they leave the institution.

“We are certainly in full support of everything that has been done initially, of supporting these guys in any way we can,” Helfrich said.