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Post Unfortunately, the NCAA got it right this time

Friday August 12, 2005

No, I’m not talking about the ridiculous ruling about Native American mascots and nicknames. Go Noles.

Our story started this week with the news that a gentleman would be paying his own way from his contractor’s position in Iraq to see his son, who plays football for Boise State, play against UGA in Athens. A few enterprising DawgVenters with their intentions in the right place set the wheels in motion to subsidize or even cover the cost of the trip.

Enter the big, bad NCAA. They decree that DawgVenters picking up the tab would be an improper benefit to the family member of a student-athlete, even if that student-athlete is on the other team.

This is a situation where you have to look past the emotionalism of the moment and let the rules work. This basic rule – no benefits to student-athletes or their families – cannot be guided by exceptions. Even though his kid plays for the other team, the father would be receiving a (quite substantial) benefit because of his son’s status as a student-athlete. What if he has another son considering where to play college ball? What if a real Boise State booster or two snuck a check into the DawgVent’s effort? Those hypotheticals aren’t true this time, but they’re other reasons for the rule – it’s impossible to control each and every exceptional case, and so the common sense baseline is to allow none of it. Abstracted out a little bit, it speaks directly to the amateur (nonprofessional) status of his son.

An emotional case could be made to provide benefits to families of many players and prospects. Handicaps…exceptional service to the community and nation…single parents sacrificing…abject poverty – these circumstances if made public would stir many of us to action. And under the rules and the spirit of amateurism that the NCAA struggles to maintain, it would be wrong to do so. Allowing those benefits on a case-by-case basis makes the application of a cornerstone rule even more arbitrary than it already seems to be and would make this rule and principle basically worthless.

The fact that the gentleman is working in Iraq and is making this one trip just to see his son play ball in the greatest setting in college football makes for a very touching and inspirational story. The NCAA, which ususally desrves the criticism it gets, must say “no” and of course is set up to look like the jerk. For the trashing they justly receive in many cases, they deserve some recognition this time for sticking by a difficult, unpopular, and – in the end – correct decision.

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