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Player compensation, staying out of trouble highlight end of Big Ten Media Days

Senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett answers questions from the media during the 2014 Big Ten Media Days July 29 in Chicago. Credit: Tim Moody / Lantern sports editor

Senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett answers questions from the media during the 2014 Big Ten Media Days July 29 in Chicago.
Credit: Tim Moody / Lantern sports editor

CHICAGO –– According to Ohio State’s Michael Bennett, everybody wants money, but that doesn’t necessarily mean college athletes need it.

“Yeah, I would like more money, but who wouldn’t?” Bennett asked.

The senior defensive lineman said you can’t simply say college athletes need more money without further explanation, at which point it’s important to look more into what how student-athletes spend their money.

“I think it’s kind of hard to just say they need more money, because then you have to say, ‘well, for what?’” He said. “That’s when you start getting into the details and stuff.”

Bennett said it’s important to learn how to manage your money as a student-athlete, and that instead of always choosing the fun option, sometimes “you have to live within your means.” He also said there are times when a player has to spend more money just to be ready to play, especially when it comes to food.

“Guys are trying to gain weight, they’ve got to gain 15 pounds, 10 pounds, and you’re running low on money,” Bennett said. “You’re living paycheck to paycheck.”

In April, the NCAA approved a new rule that allows athletes playing Division I athletics unlimited meals and snacks from the university. The rule applies to all athletes, whether they are a walk on or a scholarship holder. Previously, the school was only able to provide three meals per day or a food stipend for the student-athletes.

Senior quarterback Braxton Miller, who chose to return to OSU instead of bolting for the NFL after his junior season, said he tries to distance himself from talk of further compensation. He said all he can do while in school is prepare himself for a chance to earn money playing football after graduation.

“(I) make sure I’m doing what I’ve got to do to make money after college,” he said.

Beyond worry for the players, OSU coach Urban Meyer said the monetary situation for families trying to watch their kids play needs to be addressed. With the new College Football Playoff system in place, Meyer said families could be faced with the decision to either fill up the charges on their credit card, or miss out on seeing their child play.

“If I’m Michael Bennett’s family and we go on a nice run, you can plan on spending $20,000 going to the Big Ten Championship Game, going to the semi-final game and going to the championship game,” he said.

Meyer said he believes changes will eventually come, and that process could be sped up with the new playoff system leading to more travel for families.

“I think it will happen, and I think this playoff system is going to expedite that,” he said. “Because how is that family going to not go watch their kid play?”

In order for an athlete to earn any of the compensation already headed their way, they typically need to stay out of trouble off the field. The Buckeyes have already been hit with a pair of off-the-field incidents that will affect the same position group to start the 2014 season.

Junior defensive lineman Noah Spence is suspended for the first two games of the season, after also missing out on the team’s January Orange Bowl matchup with Clemson, stemming from a positive drug test for ecstasy. While heis set to make his return in week three, former OSU football player Tracy Sprinkle was removed from the team as a whole after his arrest in July. Meyer said Sprinkle is still no longer with the team, but that could change depending on the outcome of his legal issues.

Meyer said he was “shocked” to hear about the trouble surrounding Spence, but he believes in the player on and off the field regardless. Meyer said, outside of that one incident, Spence has done nothing to cause concern.”

“He’s been nothing but a good student and a model citizen,” Meyer said.

Spence is still with the team, and Bennett said he is a welcome presence no matter what may have happened off the field.

“He’s been fine, because we’re not berating him about it,” Bennett said of Spence. “He’s our teammate, and we love him.”

Bennett said it is important to keep yourself away from anyone who could put you in a bad situation, or endanger your future goals. He said it is especially important when your goals are to make the jump to the next level.

“You’re trying to take your life and completely just throw it into a whole different dimension in just two or three years,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you can distance yourself from anybody who might endanger that.”

Miller said people don’t necessarily recognize that he does go out, that he doesn’t avoid bars or other situations at all costs. He said the reason he doesn’t find himself in the news for such things is he stays out of trouble while doing it. Miller said it’s important to surround yourself with the right people, who won’t let you get in trouble or get into a negative situation.

“People don’t recognize that I go out, because I stay out of trouble,” he said. “I bring guys that (are) in my circle, they take care of the situation if I get in a situation if I go to a bar or something like that.”

With Miller helping to pace the offense, Meyer on the sidelines and Bennett leading the defensive line, the Buckeyes are scheduled to face Navy in their season opener Aug. 30 in Baltimore, Md.

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