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Will NCAA Officials Be Heroic Through Coronavirus Crisis?

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Times of crisis often give people who are otherwise known for cowardice a chance to be heroes. 

The onset of COVID-19 may provide an opportunity to some of the most cowardly in sports, those who run college athletics, to do something noble and worthwhile.

Don’t bet on them taking it. 

 

As you know, the NCAA, the governing body for college sports as well as athletic conferences, decided to immediately close down all competitions to protect participants and spectators from possible exposure to the coronavirus. 

For a group that frequently gets it wrong – in spades – the officials got it right. Sports have their place, but not then and not for a while. 

But the abrupt ending left thousands of athletes without a coda to their season. And, for seniors, that finish brought an unexpected conclusion to their careers, with hardly a chance to say goodbye.

As winter athletes, like wrestlers and basketball players had largely completed their seasons, save for, say, the hoops tournament, the pain was certainly present, but could be rationalized away.

Not so for spring competitors. Athletes in baseball, golf, men's volleyball, lacrosse, rowing, softball, tennis, track and water polo were stripped of their last hurrahs before the curtain on their respective seasons could rise.

The conferences ended their seasons and the NCAA cancelled their championships. Just like that, four or five years of pain, sweat and determination shut down without a going out of business sale.

In a recognition of the unusual nature of the situation, a panel called the NCAA Council Coordination Committee recommended two weeks ago that spring athletes be granted quote eligibility relief unquote.

What most took that to mean was another year of eligibility. It seemed that the NCAA Council, a group of administrators, athletic directors and even a few student-athletes that decides on the day-to-day policies of the organization, would rubber stamp this.

But not so fast. Word emerged that because of the cancellation of the men’s Division I basketball tournament, the biggest single money maker on the NCAA calendar, distribution to the member schools would be down more than 60 percent. 

A USA Today story estimated that the cost of granting that extra year of eligibility could be between a half million and nearly a million dollars for each of the schools in what is known as the Power Five conferences, meaning the biggest leagues. That cost for non-Power Five schools could be about 400-thousand, the story projected.

And, all of a sudden, this didn’t seem like such a great idea. Doing a solid for people who are inadvertently wronged is wonderful until it costs money.

As we’ve documented here, big-time college athletic departments are cash cows. Most of them could easily find the money to let those students, especially the seniors, have the appropriate close to their athletic careers.

And many of those seniors may pass up another year on campus to graduate and start making a living, which will take care of some of that expense.

As early as Monday, the NCAA Council may vote on the proposal. Here’s hoping it takes the opportunity to do something heroic, even if it is a little costly.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

 

 

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