Is the NCAA Another Hurdle for Student-Athletes?

The NCAA has made some controversial decisions that have drawn criticism.

Recruits make a strong effort to stay controversy free during their college and high school playing careers. Student athletes are responsible for abiding by guidelines established by the NCAA. The governing body serves the role of a strict disciplinarian, instituting regulations to keep in check the athletes. More importantly, the NCAA appears to keep a watchful eye over recruits to fortify the image of the model college athlete, one who balances both academics and athletics. Although several groups and individuals have extolled the NCAA for its work, recent miscues by the organization has caused public outcry.

Just this past summer, news spread regarding the ineligibility of a football recruit because of his involvement in an “organized football league”­­­—the recreational football league at Marine Corps Air Station. Steven Rhodes, the affected individual in this scenario, had to forfeit two years of eligibility before he could once again play for the Middle Tennessee football program. Clearly, the NCAA overstepped their boundaries by not allowing this young man, who had served the United States, clearance to play football in college. Of course, though, it took media outcry for the NCAA to overturn its previous decision; Blain could once again play college football. But, the move came as a preemptive measure by the NCAA to secure its own image, and as the result of the increased publicity surrounding the situation.

      Besides football, though, the NCAA has committed blunders in basketball recruiting and transferring as well.

Kerwin Okoro, a small forward, initially committed to Iowa State following his recruitment from the Class of 2012. Yet, Okoro dealt with several personal issues during the 2012-2013 basketball season, including the deaths of his father from a stroke and his brother from colon cancer within a two month span. To remain closer to home, the native Bronx, NY basketball player decided to transfer to Rutgers in May and vouched for immediate eligibility under the hardship waiver. Despite two deaths in his family, the NCAA denied Okoro eligibility this season.

The hardship waiver only grants immediate eligibility for players who have family members with current illnesses and has no mention of death. Okoro was clearly on the losing end of the fight. A seemingly rocky road for Okoro finally ended with some optimism as the NCAA eventually, after reexamination permitted him immediate eligibility two weeks ago.

Although both Steven Rhodes and Kerwin Okoro ultimately won their bouts with the NCAA, their fights were difficult and muddled with hardship. Student athletes do not deserve such treatment, especially by the governing body that stands to alleviate the process. As displayed by these cases and many other transfer and eligibility situations, the NCAA acts as a strong disciplinarian rather than a caring guardian. If the NCAA can once again regain credibility with both the college teams and fans, they have a long road ahead.

In the meanwhile, though, recruits should understand that college athletics doesn’t solely include academics and athletics. Recruits should understand that the NCAA makes the final call about a player’s eligibility or ability to transfer. It is up to the recruit to accept this and move forward regardless of the final outcome of the NCAA’s decision.