Tuesday, April 5, 2011

6 comments A Tuesday Afternoon Rant

As much as I loathe ESPN for its website's poor organization and wealth of useless information, Outside The Lines always grabs my eyes. Sometimes it's nice to watch heart warming or wrenching stories that touch on the more publicized issues surrounding sports. In the latest video, Kye Allums, a George Washington women's basketball player, has openly admitted to wanting to become officially transgender. Here's the video.

I'm usually not one to discuss women's sports or women's issues. Not out of a lack of respect, but simply from a lack of knowledge. (Clearly some writers don't let the latter stop them.) But today I'm irked. Quite irked. If I were to ever describe the kind of writing that receives and deserves criticism from Bottom of the Barrel, it's the writers who display unabashed ignorance and nonacceptance. It's this that brings me back to the Kye Allums story.

Let me give you a brief summary. Kye is physically female, but emotionally male. He (Kye wants to be addressed as a man) wants to have surgery and take male hormones after graduation to make the transition complete. The only thing holding him back is his scholarship, which will probably be revoked if he takes hormones (the NCAA would not allow him to play - and rightfully so - if he starts to develop male physicality because it gives him an unfair advantage). If you watch the second video on the OTL website, you'll notice that one writer analyzing the situation claims that if Kye truly wants to be male, he should play on the men's team.

As often discussed on this blog, women simply cannot compete athletically with men because of the vast physical advantage. No matter how many hormones Kye takes, he cannot equal the physical development of a male for 20 years. But that's not even the biggest issue. As a male, I feel like I can speak for my gender when I say that a transgender basketball player would not exactly become "one of the guys." Even if the entire team is completely respectful (which would most likely not happen), there's very little common ground to establish a relationship, especially in just one year. On the women's team, she has teammates and coaches who have known him previously, despite his change in gender recognition.

To bring this back to the sports world at large, this story touches on a larger issue which frustrates me beyond belief. Before I dive in, let me be clear about one thing. I hate that young men and women of lesser intelligence receive admission to academic institutions simply on the basis of sports. (Obviously some atheletes can get into these schools on their own academic merit, but a lot cannot). On the flip side, once a student receives a scholarship, you can't take it away simply because the student chooses not to play. Of course I understand the impetus. The athlete received admission on the basis that he or she would play a sport. But what about athletes who get cut or injured? Do they deserve to lose their scholarships? For most, loss of scholarship means dropping out. Is this the message that schools really want to send? They're essentially saying that if you can't help us athletically, we can't help you academically. But who gets hurt in this situation more? Does it really kill the school to keep these kids around, even if they quit playing?

If the above situation is a reality, there will always be athletes who take advantage of the system: those who gain admission to various colleges and quit their respective sport on day one. The solution then, is to require a minimum of two years of athletics before a student can quit the team. That or ban athletic scholarships completely (which should be the real solution, but I'm not trying to start a riot here).

This is the catch-22 Kye finds himself in. He has openly admitted that he will never feel right until he is anatomically male. But officially changing genders would lead to him losing his scholarship. As much as I want to blame the NCAA, they are simply attempting to maintain the integrity of the game. The true culprit is GW, who would most likely revoke Kye's scholarship if he went ahead with the medical procedure.

I hate college sports sometimes.

6 comments:

rich said...

The athlete received admission on the basis that he or she would play a sport. But what about athletes who get cut or injured? Do they deserve to lose their scholarships? For most, loss of scholarship means dropping out. Is this the message that schools really want to send?

Dylan, while I understand where you're coming from, I have to respectfully disagree. There is a difference between being cut/injured and choosing not to play. When an athlete is cut/injured, the student makes no choice. I don't think many athletes would choose to be injured and while some cuts are made due to poor work ethic, I'd venture to say that a lot of it is the school recruiting someone who is simply better than them (see: SEC football).

The difference is akin to the "laid off" verse "quit" difference. When someone is laid off there's typically a severance package involved, when an individual quits, why should the company continue to honor their end of the contract when the other party isn't.

The scholarship is based on the school getting something out of the deal. Academic scholarships are made on the basis that the person will be successful and bring prestige to the school through research papers, donations or the like. Athletic scholarships are given so that the school trades money and resources for the services provided by the athlete.

The other issue I have is that for a lot of these sports, the school is actually losing money, so in a way, it is actually hurting the school to keep these scholarships around. If they keep a player who quit on the scholarship, it means less scholarships for athletes who will actually play, which hurts the team as well as the potential recipient of the scholarship. It also traps money in the athletic scholarship that could otherwise be used for something else, say an academic scholarship.

However, the biggest issue I have is: For most, loss of scholarship means dropping out.

It is not the school's job to keep students around who choose to not be there. I'm sorry, but I have a hard time feeling for someone who is fearful of giving up a free ride while people who are there to actually be educated end up under hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans. If an athlete loses their scholarship, the school is not telling them to leave, it's simply telling them to find an alternative way to pay for their education, just like the majority of students.

Additionally, with the resources available to the athletic department, I'm sure any athlete that was respected by the coaching staff would be able to find an alternative scholarship or grant that would allow them to finish off their schooling.

Dylan said...

Rich,

I'm not going to stand here and pretend like your arguments are not logical, because they are. I especially like the comparison to being laid off versus quitting. I guess I'm looking at this situation from a greater good stand point. Think of it this way: most students use athletics as a means to get a higher quality education. I'm not talking about the tiny percentage that go pro, but the actual student-athletes as opposed to athlete-students. While I understand that the scholarship offer is a pseudo-contract, the kids who are quitting are most likely quitting for the exact same reasons that they would be "laid off:" Better recruits came in and they got screwed. They don't want to sit around on the end of the bench when they could be focusing on academics instead. Taking the scholarship away forces athletes who actually are academically motivated to quit school. Sure, they may have to the financial sacrifices of the average student, but the athlete is at a distinct disadvantage. Transferring is difficult, especially with no athletic pull, and they're already committed to that school. Regular students select schools in part due to the financial aid offered to them by certain colleges. I have plenty of friends who attended what are considered lesser academic institutions than they could have gone to simply because of the financial aid package they received. This is why I have a problem with pulling the scholarship. It screws the kids because their options are essentially zero when its gone.

That said, I'm completely sympathetic to the other side of the argument. There are probably way too many kids who would take advantage of a system in which schoalrships were guaranteed all four years, no matter what. It's just a fine line to tip toe, but I'd heir on the side of guaranteeing scholarships.

Blame also has to be put on coaches who over-recruit, forcing them to cut certain kids even after they've committed. The SEC (Ole Miss specifically) has had a number of problems with this over the years.

Martin F. said...

Scholarships should be 4 year contracts. If a kid decides to quit, it's on him to reimburse the school for the rest of the contract. If a coach over recruits, the kid should get to keep his scholarship, but not have it count against the limits on teams. The NCAA constantly tells us that kids can't transfer and play because they "select schools, not coaches and teams", so back it up and make the school honor it's "commitment" to the player.

If in certain cases the coach and athlete agree, allow them to leave the school under no penalty, and immediate eligibility if they transfer out of conference.

Simple solutions that will never be implemented.

Dylan said...

Martin,

You seem to forget that reason and logic are just ridiculous! Why would the NCAA ever subscribe to such a crazy idea?

rich said...

Dylan,

When you're talking about players who get cut, I think they have a legitimate beef; however, kids who quit are on a different field as I alluded to before.

The financial pitfalls that come with quitting are things that should be considered when reaching a decision. Again, using the "quitting" argument, if I have a mortgage and a family, then quitting my job because I care about something else more needs to be weighed against the financial problems that will ensue.

The same goes for student-athletes. If they take a scholarship knowing that it will be pulled if they quit, then they have to think about what's important for them. You say that taking away scholarships forces the academically focused students to think about dropping out. I'd counter and say that the academically motivated students are the ones who will find a way to stick around. If they're motivated to stay in school, they'll find a way.

When it comes to choosing a school, I'd feel more sympathy for them, but, again, it was their decision to attend school X over school Y knowing fully well what might happen.

With that said, I think Martin's idea makes practical sense. If a student leaves, then the scholarships turn into loans. The only issue I have with this is that while a school like Texas might be able to handle having a couple loans on the books, smaller schools might not have that ability.

Bengoodfella said...

My two cents...I think a player who gets injured/cut don't deserve a loss of scholarship, but I do believe if a person gets a scholarship to play a sport and they don't play that sport then they haven't met the terms of their scholarship and should lose it. It's the same thing for academic scholarships where there is a community service or GPA requirement attached. Shit happens and sometimes if a person doesn't meet the criteria to keep these academic scholarships they will lose them.

So while I do have sympathy for his personal situation and feelings, if he doesn't play women's sports then he should lose his scholarship according to the rules. Having said that (Curb Your Enthusiasm reference intended), it is not like this exact situation will happen often or there is a way for other athletes to do this, so the school could essentially attempt to work something out with the student if they chose to.

I can see why they would and I can see why they wouldn't. Depending on what type of student this person is, there are merit scholarships, loans and other ways to help pay for school if this surgery was pursued. I think it would be kind of the school to look into those in lieu of the athletic scholarship being gone.

I think if a coach does over-recruit then he should be able to keep the scholarship and I think it should still count against the school's limit. I don't like the idea of over-recruiting at all.

What's interesting is a player, when he transfers, can get permission from his college coach to have the one year "wait period" waived. There just have to be special circumstances. Elliot Williams of Duke transferred to Memphis after his freshman year because he wanted to be closer to his mother who had an undisclosed illness. Duke didn't ask that he sit one year and he requested a waiver of the rule and was approved.

I think (and this is me speculating) if the school a kid transferred from told the NCAA and advocated for the student to be able to transfer then there would be more special circumstances that could be approved. I'm not sure if this is a good thing of course.