The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

April 18, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

MORGANTOWN — At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

The first was expanding the NCAA’s role in feeding its athletes, allowing three meals a day plus snacks and not just for scholarship players, as it was, but also for walk-ons … who, the NCAA suddenly discovered after all these years of using them as everything from tackling dummies to stars have appetites as big as scholarship players.

The second seemed to be going off in another direction, reducing the penalty for a positive test for marijuana from a full season suspension to half a season.

How, you ask, are these connected?

As my former co-worker and dear friend Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com wrote the other day, making the point there is a difference between performance-enhancing drugs and pot, “one makes you bigger the other makes you want to attack a bag of Cheetos.”

If the NCAA was going to follow the trend society seems to be following as it heads toward the legalization of marijuana — or to at least realize that there is reason to separate it from other drugs, both street drugs and performance-enhancing drugs — then it must deal with the results of that decision.

And if the results are to “attack a bag of Cheetos” or snacks of other sorts, its member schools should certainly at least pay for the munchies.

All joking aside, these two rules changes are far more important than they may seem to be on the surface.

Much has been made over the past day of the loosening of the restrictions on athletic training tables, that growing out of a Final Four statement from guard Shabazz Napier of national champion UConn, who revealed that many a night he had gone to bed hungry because he was unable to afford food.

The statement, well timed as it was, had nothing to do with the NCAA legislation, however, for that was long in the pipeline. But it made the rule change the stuff of which headlines are made.

Certainly, it seems to be a reasonable and even charitable move by the NCAA, but you wonder if the organization would have so much as even thought of considering it were it not under attack from its student-athletes in the courtroom.

An effort to unionize certainly is lessened by taking up the matter of treatment of the athletes when it comes to removing the issue of nutrition off the table, so to speak. And then there is the matter of a law suit filed by West Virginia University’s own Shawne Alston, who claimed that the amount of a scholarship did not cover the full cost of an education.

Alston claimed that he had to take out a $5,000 loan despite his scholarship, and certainly part of that loan comes from midnight snacks or a fourth meal that might be necessary to replace the calories that are burned up through workouts to become a football player.

This change in the rules puts the NCAA ahead of the curve in stopping future claims should it come up on the short end of the Alston suite.

The marijuana rule is aimed at changing the organization’s outlook upon the drug.

“Street drugs are not performance-enhancing in nature, and this change will encourage schools to provide student-athletes the necessary rehabilitation,” read part of the proposal.

This falls directly in step with society, which is slowly legalizing it across America and sees the solution to its abuse in rehabilitation, not criminalization.

The use of marijuana has grown beyond being a matter for athletic departments to deal with. It has moved into the hands of state governments and, in the future, probably the national government.

As Dodd points out, steroids directly affect performance on the field, unlike marijuana, which present a far more a social and societal issue … especially in college towns.

Not to say that it is everywhere in settings such as Morgantown, but just the other day a friend was golfing on one of our local courses and came across a flip-top cigarette pack laying on the course. He bent down and picked it up and looked inside and was surprised to find not only one cigarette left in the pack but a neatly rolled joint.

“I’ve found a lot of things on golf courses,” he said, “but never whacky-tabbacky before.”

The NCAA tests for marijuana only at bowl games and national championships and you seldom hear of anyone failing such a test and being suspended. Schools also test but have freedom to deal with it as they see fit.

It started drug testing in 1986, and a story in The New York Times in 2013 said positives “hovered around 1 percent”, which really isn’t much of a problem. What’s more, since the group began testing for drugs, the view of marijuana use has changed to a point that it has been legalized in a number of states and that number figures to only grow.

So, it would seem, the NCAA is moving down the right road in both pieces of legislation … now if it can just find a way to take control of its own sports away from television and begin running them for the athletes and schools again, we will move toward a more perfect world.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads