Editorial: The NCAA failed student-athletes

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The ISD Editorial Board discusses how the NCAA failed student-athletes.

Editorial Board

The NCAA, the governing body for the highest levels of collegiate sports, has once again failed the student-athletes it claims to support. Their leadership, or more accurately lack thereof, has left conferences scrambling to decide the best course of action that both protects student-athletes from COVID-19 and rewards them for the hard work and dedication they have given to their respective teams.

Player safety should be the utmost priority for athletic departments. Student-athletes give far too much of themselves to be treated with anything less. And that brings up the question universities and conferences are asking and the NCAA has failed to answer: is it safe to play fall sports and if so, how?

This question, however, is not easily answered, as the realm of college athletics goes far beyond student-athletes into deep financial questions about university athletic departments. It all comes down to money, and fall sports seasons are necessary for the vast majority of schools to keep the money flowing.

Another thing to consider is Title IX, the law that prevents sex-based discrimination in college athletics. Canceling the college football season, many athletic departments’ largest source of income, cancels many other sports, many of which provide scholarships and thus education opportunities to female student-athletes.

It’s unfortunate college athletics are intertwined so closely with the financial obligations of athletic departments that fall sports are imperative to the continued existence of many teams.

Even more unfortunate is how the sheer incompetence of university presidents, athletic directors, conference commissioners and the NCAA has left student-athletes feeling neglected and undervalued once again.

College athletics gives students far too many opportunities for every option of a fall season not to be exhausted. Players want to play, and they deserve every effort to make a safe fall sports season possible.

It’s almost certainly too late now, but a more centralized, concerted effort should have been made to ensure student-athletes weren’t placed in a state of limbo concerning eligibility, scholarships, a season, future impact, etc. The list of things leadership has failed to address goes on and on.

Regardless of your view on the viability of a safe fall sports season, please acknowledge the impact this has had and will continue to have on student-athletes, specifically women and minority student-athletes. A college football season and athletics in general are their chance at a college education. 

To the majority of us, college sports are something to be watched on television and sometimes in person. Student-athletes then seem like little more than pawns. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Recognize these student-athletes as the hard-working, dedicated and giving people they are, and give them the safety, opportunities and respect they deserve.