The power of three games
Nathan Harries found out about NCAA rules the hard way this summer as he was about to start his freshman year at Colgate University in New York.
Instead of getting ready for the upcoming basketball season, he found himself with one year of his NCAA eligibility removed. The decision was reversed a week ago after numerous media outlets began sharing the story.
This summer, Harries participated in the Dunwoody Baptist Church’s basketball league after returning from serving his mission with the LDS Church. According to NCAA rules, players are penalized for every year they take part in an organized sport outside of their university’s officially-sanctioned schedule.
How long was the church league schedule? Three games.
Now, the NCAA is right to have the rule in the first place, in an attempt to offer something of an equal playing field for athletes. If the rule wasn’t in place, many teams living in an area with great athletic events and services could stand far above others in their division or conference. The organization’s attempt to create a similar level of competition should be commended.
But this case shows the rule can be taken to the extreme.
It’s a church league, people. You’re not going to find NBA scouts sitting in the crowd for these games.
Sure, the NCAA can argue that the Dunwoody church’s league was organized. After all, someone had to put it together, but that really shouldn’t count. At what level are they considering a sport “organized”? If three games is a concern, playing basketball with friends at the park throughout the summer definitely should be on their radar.
Spokane actually has a part to play in the NCAA enforcing a similar rule 10 years ago. A Spokesman-Review article from that time shows that the organization barred different division athletes from playing in Hoopfest, the annual three-on-three street tournament.
The problem? Awards being given out by the tournament. According to the article the event’s award, a T-shirt, was the main sticking point with the NCAA. They also disagreed with athletes receiving garment bags and having entry fees waived in the following year for returning elite champions.
At the time, coaches were on both sides of the issue, offering a wide array of opinions. Some said they agreed with the rule’s enforcement, saying that the tournament was creating the potential for some serious injuries. Others said it’s just one weekend.
I see where the NCAA was coming from in the formation of the rule, and its intent has a purpose. If you’re going to play an official sport in college, then there are some sacrifices that happen along the way. You may have to give up some sports games with friends in order to preserve your ability to remain healthy for a college season.
One story that comes to mind is the great Seattle Mariners hitter Edgar Martinez. Dominant at the plate and deserving of a place in the Hall of Fame, Martinez refrained from watching movies and TV shows throughout the year in order to avoid agitating an eye condition that impaired his vision. He sacrificed some entertainment throughout the year, likely with his family, so he could perform better at the sport.
Yet, I’m also the type of person who wonders why more track and cross country teams don’t take part in Bloomsday, just for fun. It’s not as though runners wouldn’t be doing the same distance during their practices, so at least let them get a T-shirt out of the event and call it a team-building exercise. Sure, there’s a risk of injury, but that’s present at every practice and every game.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.