NCAA regulations forbid assistance to athletes


art by Elena Franck

Brayden Parker

art by Elena Franck
art by Elena Franck


Walking out of his classroom following his morning public speaking course, a University of Missouri football player set out in the pouring rain to his dorm somewhere across the Francis Quadrangle.
A daily venture he makes has recently been impeded by a broken leg, suffered in the previous week’s practice. Wobbling out the door, he has no car to make the rough journey quicker, and he has no room for an umbrella, his hands occupied with the two crutches that bear his weight.
Following behind him, his teacher, who is a family friend of mine, notices the trouble the so-called “student-athlete” is having to endure just to make it to his own home. Wanting to help the student out, the teacher asks if he needed a lift, an easier way to return to his dorm without the inconvenience of the storm outside. Innocently, the young man declines the invitation, citing that the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body of collegiate athletics, has regulations forbidding him to get help from faculty members. Instead, the young man, a student who happened to be an athlete, faced the wind and rain to get home on a bad leg.
There have been more unfortunate instances than this at the 1,281 institutions that have membership with the NCAA.
I am sure on countless rainy days in the United States on numerous campuses across the country, similar sympathetic professors have reached out to similar young men and women not to show favoritism towards just the athletes, but to show compassion for those in need.
While this anecdote is reflective of a non-tangible act of kindness the NCAA extends their rules far past situations like this to encompass a tiring list of “extra benefits.” Per the NCAA guidelines, these so-called benefits can include anything from “any special gift or arrangement provided to an enrolled student-athlete that is not available to the general student body of the institution.”
I fully understand the necessity of such rules to be in place and to be enforced throughout the realm of collegiate athletics. There are far too many instances where sports fans and boosters have inappropriately handed out benefits to big name college athletes at big time programs, like the widely publicized bowl games, in order to satisfy the players wants.
Unfortunately there have been far more times when other sports fans, who happen to be faculty and/or boosters, want to help out the young men and women who are experiencing life on their own for the first time.
In 2010, a young man started going to our church here in Columbia. He was a relatively new football player to the Mizzou program and has since become one of my best friends. My mother, in all her Texas glory, befriended this young man one Sunday morning after church and relatively soon after that encounter, Zaviar Gooden, a linebacker from Pflugerville, Texas, seemed to be part of our family.
There was only one problem separating Z, as my younger sisters and I took to calling him, from joining us on our family gatherings. This problem proved to be the NCAA and its inconvenient guidelines.
I can’t count the number of birthdays, Thanksgivings and Christmases, or honestly just Sunday afternoons that we would have loved to hang out with Z. I honestly don’t know if he wanted to be with my family as much I wanted to be with the big-time Division I football player, but as a young man who heads off to college in a few short months I want someone to watch after me on my first extended journey away from home.
I suppose this is where my distaste for the NCAA’s stipulations stems from, and their lack of consistency, from traditional to bowl games, where and when they enforce the no-payment rule.
It was never really about not getting to hang with Z. Despite my dad being both faculty and a booster of the University, we toyed with rules a little bit and it would be a lie to say that Zaviar didn’t spend a Thanksgiving afternoon or two at my family’s house following practice.
Because he has since graduated I can spend as much time with the first-year Tennessee Titan as much as time or distance allows.
But I am more disappointed with the restrictions that prevent good-intentioned people, who happen to be boosters (as many people in college towns are), from having an in-depth interaction with students who happen to athletes.
As I head to college to play football in the fall I am thankful for the preventive measures that the NCAA has instituted to disallow any inappropriate contact between prospective student-athletes and passionate boosters to attract them to their beloved school.
While free benefits are enticing, I would never want my decision on where to begin life on my own to ever be hampered by some distant fan I have no relation to.
On the other hand, one which I believe to hold more weight, I am disappointed in the restrictions that these guidelines hold. When I’m off on my own in another town I do hope that there is a family in town or at the church I attend who will want to make an effort to watch out for me. Moreover, I know my mother will be at ease knowing that someone is at least keeping tabs on her son. Let’s just hope they aren’t faculty.
The problem is that there is seemingly no cure for the problem. I fully understand why the NCAA creates measures to prevent all sorts of contact with student-athletes. They sit in fear that their reign over collegiate athletics will be tarnished by some high spirited booster acting aimlessly. And while this is a legitimate concern, the likelihood of this happening seems to be slim in the grand scheme of college sports.
Perhaps the NCAA should continue to have these penalties for inappropriate contact. If it makes them feel at ease, then more power to them. Yet they should not penalize those who aren’t at fault. The NCAA should thoroughly investigate, which really means nothing to the NCAA anymore, into each and every case and see what really happened in those instances.
Maybe we could get into tune with the times and help out students who happen to be athletes. If the NCAA is “always there for their students” then maybe we can alter the rules and make that happen.
Or at least we could give them a ride home in the rain.
By Brayden Parker