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NCAA Division I Council approves “voluntary athletic activities” in football, MBB, WBB

Sorry volleyball and cross-country: You don’t make enough money to work out on your own campus!

Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), looks on during a brief press availability on Capitol Hill December 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In one of the most cynical moves for the most cynical of America’s sporting governing bodies, today the NCAA Division I Council approved the return to campus of football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball “student-athlete’s” for “voluntary” workouts using athletic facilities provided by the school.

These activities had been banned previously as part of the Covid-19 legislation passed in March.

First of all, if you believe that these students returning to the on-campus gyms is “voluntary,” when there are head coaches and strength coaches that hasn’t been able to monitor a player workout in two months, we’ve got some 2020 Kansas Jayhawks College Football National Champions merch to sell you. Any kid not on campus by 6am a week from Sunday is going to be running gassers until their legs melt.

Secondly despite all the rhetoric about how all sports are equal and how the field hockey benchwarmer means just as much as the SEC starting quarterback, the cynicism to only bring in the revenue sport athletes (and WBB for Title IX purposes we’re sure) is beyond the pale for an organization that lives beyond the pale. There are five fall sports in D1, and four of them won’t be allowed to use the workout facilities on their own campus before two WINTER sports (men’s basketball and women’s basketball) will be permitted.

The official NCAA website has a page that says “In 1906, the NCAA was founded to keep college athletes safe. We are working hard to protect them physically and mentally, on the field and off.” So either that applies to all the athletes, or none. Not just the ones that make you money.

Sorry about your luck, volleyball, field hockey, or men’s and women’s soccer. This is what happens when you’re going pro in something other than sports not making your seven-figure head football coach and athletic director enough revenue.

This is just one hurdle, as now the individual conferences will also have to permit players back on campus. The first decision there will come from the SEC on Friday. Somehow we think a group of red state university presidents, whose bosses are public Boards of Trustees et al appointed by legislators and governors, just might be ready to have their unpaid labor return ASAP.

Let’s hope the NCAA can provide enough coronavirus testing, protective equipment, and the like to keep everyone safe. If there’s not enough money to do it, maybe they could stop lobbying Congress to keep their workforce unpaid to find a few extra dollars.