Thursday, May 8, 2014

Has anybody asked the college athlete what she thinks about anything?

Leticia Romero

We have just one question: Has anybody asked the college athlete what she thinks?

About what, you ask? About anything important. You see we hear lots of higher ups -- the NCAA, coaches, administrators -- talking about what's best for the student-athlete. We rarely hear the college athlete talking, and if we do, it's just talk.

College athletes have no voice in a system that we're told is all about making it a better four years for them.

We offer some examples. Coach leaves for a brand new, better job that doubles, perhaps triples, her pay. Contract is broken. The athletes she recruited are told to stay put. They can't transfer to another school without asking, in some cases pleading, for their release.

Are we specifically talking about Marlene Stollings  departing VCU for Minnesota? Yes and no. Yes, because Stollings left a program behind that she promised to build, that she nicknamed Fury, that had nine newcomers on its roster last season. We honestly can't blame her for leaving pleasant Richmond behind for Minneapolis winters -- it's a more lucrative job in a better conference. We can blame the process that allows this to happens -- that allows coaches to switch schools without fulfilling their contracts. And yes, we feel for those kids who came to VCU likely for one reason: They wanted to play for Stollings. They don't have the option to transfer without losing a year of precious playing time.

Consider another case, the one of Leticia Romero. Romero, a freshman, came to Kansas State from Spain to play for Coach Deb Patterson. Patterson was fired at the end of this season. Romero wants to transfer. K-State won't allow it. And if she opts to sit out, the NCAA has ruled she would have to pay for that year. Yes, this is legal, as NCAA rules stipulate that athletes cannot receive scholarship aid from a new school unless their previous schools grants a one-time transfer exception request.

So you're a coach, you sit in a kid's living room, make promises if she'll sign on the bottom line. You leave -- and yes, we get it. Better jobs do come along. But why is the kid punished because a coach gets a more attractive offer and decides to take it? Does anyone believe Romero came to K-State for any other reason than to play for Patterson? Ditto for those VCU freshmen, who fit into the Stollings system and had to be excited for what another year would bring.

The critics, we suppose, would say if kids could transfer, they would; perhaps a coach could move a whole team to her new school. We counter with this. Perhaps, but let's get real. Often coaches leave for bigger programs; many of the kids they recruited couldn't earn a position on their new team. Furthermore, is it really logical let alone ethical to say a college athlete must remain at her original school when the coach has left for greener pastures or been fired?

Coaches take new jobs all the time, because after all, it's just business, we're told. Business in college athletics? You mean it's business for the coaches and athletic directors. It can't be business for the college athletes who don't draw a check, who don't have a voice in a system that is said to be all about them.

While college athletes are on committees that give input to the NCAA, when the doors are shut, when votes are recorded, they have no representative, they have no vote. They are outsiders in their own sport. While the transfer rule is among the most bothersome of the rules, others are equally confounding and blatantly insulting in their lack of regard for the college athlete. In our sport, for example, we're going backward when it comes to postseason play, returning to home sites for first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games, as that's what is best for the game and we're told the NCAA wants to give the student-athlete the best atmosphere in the postseason.

So let me ask you, James Madison Dukes, was it better to have played Texas A&M in the second round in a College Station arena full of Aggies fans or would you have preferred fewer people and a neutral court?

We can tell you what we think about this whole deal. We've got lots of thoughts about rules and decisions that are made on behalf of the college athlete. But we really want is to hear from the college athletes themselves. They play the game; they're smart enough to go to college after all. We bet they have plenty to say if anybody listened.


  1. Thank you for raising the issue. The majority of student athletes are afraid to voice their opinions or provide input on anything related to their program because (1) their input is not respected or welcomed by the coaching and administrative staff, (2) there will be repercussions for speaking one's mind, and (3) there are team rules that forbid them from talking.

  2. One addendum - athletes ARE asked their opinion about the NCAA championships. They consistently say they'd rather play in front of a big crowd ("championship atmosphere"). They are not as obsessed with "fairness" as some coaches are... The transfer issue? Just silly power games by the NCAA/coaches (and I say that to highlight that the NCAA serves the Athletic Directors who serve the coaches NOT the students). Student-athletes are on one year schollys.... why? 'cause the NCAA coaches wanted that power. Students should be able to take the scholly at its face value.

    1. Curious about your first point. When are athletes asked whether they'd prefer home sites vs. neutral courts?