COVID-19 sucks, and the negative tentacles reach into most of our lives. Powerful people enjoy the opportunity to try to right those wrongs where they can.
Such is the case with the NCAA Division One Council who approved a measure that allows all winter athletes to retain their year of eligibility this season whether games are played or not. That means that seniors can return to school or transfer for a fifth year without using a red shirt season.
On its face, that seems like a decent thing to do. Not penalizing student-athletes for a worldwide pandemic entirely outside their control appears sane and decent. But when the unintended consequences are going to cause pain for a different group of people we need to shine a light on that.
While it might make Council chair Grace Calhoun and her minions feel better to approve this accommodation to current athletes, they are dealing with physical impediments to the satisfaction of others – 13 scholarships per program and 200 minutes of playing time per team each game.
In basketball, 13 scholarships are available. If seniors return for a fifth season, what happens to the incoming freshmen who were promised a full-ride and spot on the team? Do they have to find another school, or will programs be put in the awkward position of telling seniors they must leave rather than play a fifth year, despite the NCAA’s decision.
And, what happens to playing time that would have shifted from the seniors to juniors, sophomores, and freshmen? The committee isn’t going to expand the available playing time of 200 minutes to allow everyone an opportunity to get the minutes they would have enjoyed otherwise.
When one sect is rescued from the negative effects of COVID-19, another bears the burden. This is the way real life works. Everyone cannot have everything. Good and bad happens. Those who benefit celebrate; those penalized overcome.
It may seem cruel to be so pragmatic as to not make allowances for COVID related loss of opportunity, but when scholarships and minutes are limited – as they must be – there is a trickle down effect of inconvenience and unfairness that attaches to efforts to moderate pain.
This problem may solve itself as student-athletes might decide they prefer to leave school on time with diploma in hand rather than play a fifth year, but the Division One Council did at least as much harm as good in granting a COVID year of eligibility.
If they don’t see it that way, the members of the council are neither as smart nor generous as they believe themselves to be.
Calhoun and her committee might have made themselves feel good about helping ease the pain of athletes negatively impacted by COVID, but they shouldn’t. The problem they believe was solved creates new and equally unfair problems.