An insider’s guide to the Top 5 Student Athlete Scams Not Involving Boosters

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By Robert Dinwiddie

Athletes are not created equally. Some run fast, others lift heavy things and reach tall things. Not all of them can do it on the same level; therefore, they receive less playing time and less attention.

Most fans are enamored of the athletes they see playing regularly but pissed off when backups screw up during and between the seasons. It’s old news: linebackers at Alabama beat up some fellow students for not wearing the right color of Crimson, a QB at Vanderbilt attacks a payphone for insulting his “perceived” apathetic attitude. All kinds of crazy stuff, right?

High profile cats get out of it most of the time, but backups get their scholarships revoked. They need to be more clever so they can actually go pro in something else. This leaves most players without affluent parents or a sugar daddy with a gap issue. There’s a gap between what they want and what they have, and there are rules associated with how they go about getting what they want. So, when faced with this dilemma, what do most people do? They find a workaround.

Some money comes to athletes within the rules- Pell Grant, Special Assistance Funds, NCAA/SEC Clothing Allowance- but the shortfall and extra funds can be made up through hustling. Most scams are benign and fly under the radar, so long as everyone knows the deal and doesn’t screw it up for the rest. Unless someone is getting thrown under the castle, Game of Thrones style, it’s the real idiots that get caught. So, here are the top 5 Scams, involving cash money, athletes engage in that do not involve getting the hookup by a booster or being a bookie:

Getting Clocked: It’s easy to do. You get the summer/offseason job. Most of the time you’re working with a buddy. Summer camps, Nutrition Stores, Paid Internships, Rec Centers, Car dealerships. You’re a semi-celebrity. At least, you are to whoever hired you. They trust you or are willing to look the other way while you take turns with your compatriots on clocking each other in and out. You’re getting your share while you spend the next several hours sleeping off your hangover and kicking the local waitress from Logan’s out of your dorm room.

Books a Million: Ahhh….athletic, academic counselors. They are an oasis in the desert of NCAA compliance efforts. Most of them are former athletes wanting to give back to current athletes and are just passing time til a coaching gig presents itself or the local elementary school needs a guidance counselor. They could be gold medalists if winking and looking the other way were an Olympic event. This scam is a little more complex and is generally not for freshmen, since it requires a little savvy knowledge of the book buying and returning process. The most important aspect of this con is to not screw it up for everyone else because it could potentially be the easiest and most lucrative of the major scams available.

How it works: Register for more hours than you’re really going to take. Get your free scholarship books for THOSE classes (not other peoples, that’s how you get caught). Drop your extra classes, of which you pre-scouted for the books with the most resale value. Organic Chem, anyone? Wait till the end of the semester, because if you return them during the full refund window, they either get credited to the main athletic account and/or it’s a big giant yellow flag to the “Counselors” who are responsible for monitoring the situation. Collect your funds, keep your mouth shut, and make it rain. It’s worth noting here that you should probably lump in any test prep, certification, and licensure training guides with your book purchases over the years. Always helpful to supplement your meager third string income with some LSAT and MCAT study prep sales to aspiring doctors and lawyers.

Trader Joes: Athletes get money every week on their Student ID cards from Mama University. You cannot withdraw this money and there are limits on where it can be used. So, how to get at it? First, stock up on items you may not normally buy in bulk. It might be helpful to pool resources here, so you have enough left over to impress that women’s lacrosse player on book scholarship with your ability to buy pancakes in the Munchie Mart at 3 in the morning. Cigarettes, dip, condoms, and feminine…“hygiene products” are always in demand. Most of the time they’re needed in a time sensitive way and an enterprising athlete worth his cleats can sell them with a convenience fee attached and get close to, if not more than, the price for which they were purchased. Effectively laundering Card Credits into foldable, smellable cash you can tuck into your stripper girlfriend’s thong.

Living dangerously: Off Campus Housing. If you didn’t know it, athletes that live off campus are paid in cold hard checks every month. This is called the “Off Campus Housing Allowance”. It typically goes up every year and is based on the institution’s estimate of what “Room and Board” costs are. It’s supposed to replace the benefit of on campus housing and meal plans. Typically, it’s in the 1K to 1.5K range per month you are enrolled. During the summer, it only applies if you’re in summer school, which is a sub-scam I won’t go into today.

How it works: Get approved to live off campus. Collect your checks. Live and eat on Campus. Pretty simple, right? Kind of. As for food, you think a major program is going to allow their linemen to go hungry? You can bet Calipari’s hair gel they won’t. This doesn’t require much seed planting as most athletes will just walk right by the person supposedly in charge of running ID’s for the training table. However, it takes some serious tradecraft to cultivate assets in the housing office who will tip you off to transfers, withdrawals, and ahem…deaths, which allow you to swoop into an empty room or suite and mooch.

Per Diem: This is money given as cash to athletes when they travel to take the place of meals. Funny, though, they feed you on these trips. Really good food, too. So…why the payoff? Per diem is around 7 bucks for breakfasts, 12 for lunch, and 18 for dinners. It differs by school, but not by a ton. For football players, it’s not much of a big deal, they may travel 6-7 times a season for one or two days at most. This is where it pays to be a baseball or basketball player. You’re in a revenue sport and have a ton of away games. Not only do they give major allowances on testing and project due dates, but solid cash flow is definitely in effect. How does this equate to a scam you may ask?

Here’s how it works: Collect your Per Diem from your graduate assistant who will keep it if you don’t track them down. Pool it with the rest of your ill gotten gains and meet up with your teammates. This can go several ways. You can compete with your teammates in your game day hotel version of Caesar’s Palace and take the per diem from their dirty athletic taped fingers till 3 AM via the game of choice. You might deposit it into your online gambling account and all of you sit at the same virtual table and proceed to fleece the unsuspecting lone player at the table. Or, and this is a personal favorite, you can wrap it up with the rest of your loot and put it on your favorite SEC team’s point spread with your local bookie.

For the sake of space I left off several other complex approaches the typical, hard up, student athlete might employ to take advantage of the unique situations that may arise. Got a problem with mine? Any other stories out there? Submit them in the comments and let’s poke holes.  

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.