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                          Blog #192 - June 2021

There were two significant events affecting sports this week.  One event happened in the Supreme Court, and the other happened at the College World Series in Omaha.

First Omaha.  The North Carolina State Wolfpack baseball team came to Omaha looking to compete for a national championship.  They won their first two games, making it to their division's championship game.  Then their season was shattered by the spread of Covid-19 within the team.

Testing resulted in 14 players ineligible to play in the championship game.  The team voted to play the game with 13 players [nine position players and four pitchers].  They lost to Vanderbilt, 3-1, which forced a second, winner-to-the-championship-series game.

That second game never happened.  Upon further testing, two additional players became ineligible to play, taking the roster down to 11 players, not enough to qualify playing a game.  Thus, the NCAA declared the second game a forfeit, and Vanderbilt was named the winner of the division, and the representative of the division to qualify for the championship series against Mississippi State, who defeated Texas to win their division.

N.C. State players and coaches were vocal in their response to the forfeiture of the second game and the Wolfpack's departure from the CWS.  Wolfpack fans were aghast and angry, as would be expected.  But how, you ask, could the team come down with Covid if every player was vaccinated?  There's the rub.  Not all players [and maybe some coaches] were not vaccinated prior to arriving in Omaha.

Head coach Elliot Avent confirmed that two players did not get vaccinated before Omaha.  He also would neither confirm nor deny whether he had been vaccinated.  The NCAA did not mandate CWS teams to be vaccinated.  But non-vaccinated teams were tested every two days.  And the Wolfpack paid the price for not being totally vaccinated.  What were they thinking, you may ask?

Avent told reporters that he would not tell his players what to do regarding vaccinations.  He said they were old enough to make their own decision.  But look at what happened with that decision?  It cost the team a chance to play for a national championship, a goal that every college baseball team dreams about at the beginning of the season.

Teams were not living "in a bubble" in Omaha.  They could go outside their rooms and meet with teammates.  However, they were not allowed to mingle with family, friends, and fans outside their team circle, per NCAA guidelines. Throughout the Series, Wolfpack players were seen signing autographs and taking photos with fans and others.  They tossed precaution to the wind, and they paid a dear price for the indiscretions.

I hope other college coaches, especially football coaches, take note regarding having players get vaccinated before practicing and competing this fall.  If you're Nick Saban at Alabama, are you giving your players a choice to be vaccinated or not this year?  Sabin himself caught Covid during the 2020 football season.  The team survived the week he was gone from the team.  But I would venture that all Alabama players will be vaccinated before the 2021 season begins.

Your heart goes out to the N.C. State players and coaches, but the team played a risky game of Russian roulette regarding health standards before the College World Series by not being completely vaccinated.  College athletics, take notice!


The Supreme Court this week ruled against the NCAA regarding restrictions on colleges offering educational perks to compensate student-athletes.  In a 9-0 vote, the court rejected the NCAA's argument that its rules limiting such educational benefits were necessary to preserve the image of amateurism in college sports.

The organization was contesting a lower-court ruling that would allow colleges to offer greater academic-related perks to Division I football and men's and women's basketball players, benefits such as scholarships for graduate degrees, paid postgraduate internships, and providing computers, musical instruments and other types of equipment related to education free of charge.

The ruling was not directly related to NIL legislation [name, image, likeness], nor did it address uncapped payment for athletes' on-field prowess.  U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with the organization about direct compensation.  But she said enhanced education benefits were fair game, even though the NCAA said it would set up a bidding war between universities and athletic conferences for top athletes.

The NCAA has been asking Congress for NIL guidelines, but Washington has not come up with an answer.   The Supreme Court also stated that the NCAA is not exempt from an antitrust ruling.

One thing is certain:  The NCAA must begin compensating players with education-related perks.  No more messing around.  Do the right thing. It's only the beginning of player compensation with NIL legislation starting to take effect in some states on July 1st.

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