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Is Cost of Attendance a Factor in Recruiting? Maybe Not

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National Signing Day came and went with almost no-one mentioning COA.

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With the 2016 recruiting class now signed, we're back in a long stretch of offseason, with the next oasis a far-off set of spring scrimmages.

We'll all remember National Signing Day 2016 for Jim Harbaugh's Signing of the Stars event at Michigan, Charlie Strong pulling in a host of big commits at the last minute, and of course Tyson Summers recruiting Georgia Southern's best-ever class (right?...).

What we won't remember is cost of attendance making headlines as a recruiting tool. The stipends were a major talking point last offseason, and there was fear that they could end up a pro sports-style arms race to see who could flash the most cash.

They were intended to ease the burden of being a student athlete so that less well-off players wouldn't be going to bed hungry. But speculation abounded that some teams would use it for another purpose, namely prying recruits away from competitors.

This was especially worrisome for G5 schools, who already suffer from a lack or resources when compared to those from major conferences. I myself was worried about the potential impact.

So far? Not at all.

I honestly forgot all about it, only remembering when I read a piece saying cost of attendance was notable only for its absence on NSD.

Which means it appears to be serving its intended purpose pretty well. Shocking, I know.

Maybe it was a factor and I just read the wrong stories. Maybe it was a factor that stayed down in the DM's between prospects and coaches.

To find out, I did major investigative research: A Google news search for "cost of attendance."

I found that Troy is giving out the stipends for the first time this semester. Trojan athletes will get $3,000 per year, split into two checks per semester.

From the Dothan Eagle:

Troy becomes at least the fourth Sun Belt Conference school to issue the extra money.

According to a CBS Sports report in August, Arkansas State is giving its athletes $4,000 per year while the San Marcos Daily Record of Texas reported Arkansas-Little Rock - which does not have football - will give its athletes an extra $4,000 this year, as well.

The Daily Advertiser in Louisiana reported in August Louisiana-Lafayette plans to issue stipends worth $4,036 this season...

Texas State announced plans to offer its student-athletes on scholarship $3,040 per year beginning in August 2016, according to the Record .

While Arkansas State and ULL are putting out an extra $1,000 per year compared to Troy, most athletes probably aren't going to switch schools based on a couple hundred bucks twice a semester.

Another fear from last season was that smaller athletic departments couldn't afford it. Those may have been overblown as well. My Google search turned up news of South Dakota State phasing in COA stipends for all student-athletes, something North Dakota and North Dakota State already have done.

All three are FCS schools. If they can afford the stipends, albeit funding 63 football scholarships rather than 85, G5 schools should as well. Even the Sun Belt distributes more than $1 million per school in College Football Playoff payouts.

However, there's an ominous warning in another story from MyStateLine.com:

"Kids and parents and high school coaches and AAU coaches are very aware of what cost of attendance is about and they want to know the number," says NIU men's basketball coach Mark Montgomery.

"It's already a recruiting topic,' adds [Northern Illinois Football Coach Rod] Carey. "It's not as big of one as it will become because schools are still figuring out how much and how they're doing it. Once that has a year to go through, and then you're going to have comparables. Then yea, oh yea, it's going to be a recruiting topic."

So perhaps we'll hear more about this in future recruiting cycles. Old Dominion Athletic Director Wood Selig says he anticipates every school in Conference USA will be offering COA by the next academic year.

Schools aren't free to just make up a number, of course. The stipends are based on federal guidelines dealing with factors such as the cost of living in the local area. The amounts can vary not only from school to school, but from player to player depending on factors like distance from home and whether or not they have a child.

Bottom line, it's still too early to tell. Cost of attendance could start to play a bigger role in recruiting as time moves forward, but so far the effect has been muted. And pretty much every FBS school should be able to offer it in some form.

Last but not least: The football and basketball players who bring in millions for our favorite schools now have a little bit more in their pockets.