Back Again and Marijuana in Sports

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here, more than four and a half months actually. It was a very busy spring semester at school and I’m now interning at the Washington Monthly, a political magazine, in Washington D.C. I’m hoping to get to some Nationals games while I’m here, but right now, I’m head deep in politics and policy and enjoying it a lot. However, it also gives me some time to get this blog back going. I’m adjusting my philosophy on posting though. Previously, I tried to write between 300-500 per post, delivering more of my opinions and delving a bit deeper into a topic. But as I read more and more, this just isn’t the best way for a blog to work. One hundred or 200 words is plenty for a blog post. Quoting an article and offering a brief thought is good as well. So while I still put out a lengthier post every once in a while, I’m planning on sticking to short ones for now.

The Associated Press recently examined the drug testing policies of eleven of the 12 SEC schools and what they found probably will surprise some people: testing positive for marijuana really isn’t a big deal at all:

In the most successful league of the BCS-era, players routinely get third, fourth and even fifth chances before they’re booted from the team

If you fail an NCAA drug test, you receive a suspension. But SEC schools are much more lenient:

Currently, a second positive test at Mississippi might simply mean the loss of free tickets for family and/or community service.

Six of the schools have a three-strikes-and-you’re-out method. At Florida, you might get a fifth strike. At Arkansas, four. And Ole Miss doesn’t have a defined number.

Is this really a big deal at all though? In the April 30 issue of ESPN the Magazine, Mark Schlabach detailed it more specifically:

In the NCAA’s latest drug-use survey, conducted in 2009 and released in January, 22.6 percent of athletes admitted to using marijuana in the previous 12 months.

And that number is almost certainly on the low end. I’m sure many players feared that their anonymous answer would become public and ruin their careers. College athletes smoke weed. But it’s more than that. Many college students smoke weed. Now, I’m certainly not going into the legality of marijuana here, but the fact is that college students smoke pot and student athletes are no different. Stringent drug testing would certainly bring down the number of athletes who partake in the activity, but it would also catch many athletes, likely some of those at the top of their revenue-generating sports. Does the NCAA want its best players sitting out a significant period of time for smoking weed? I doubt it so I don’t see stricter enforcement in the future. If anything, I see the opposite.

Ohio State Penalties Enough and Not Enough

The NCAA announced today that Ohio State will receive a one-year bowl ban, lose nine scholarships over the course of three years and face an additional year of probation. These penalties, while damaging to Ohio State, are not as severe as they could have been. The one-year bowl ban will greatly hurt the university, but this is just another demonstration of the NCAA’s inability to police college athletics.

Who pays most for the indiscretions of Terrelle Pryor and Jim Tressel? The current players at Ohio State. The ones who did nothing wrong.

Now, Pryor had to serve a five-game suspension in the NFL and that was an excellent, bold move by commissioner Roger Goodell. And any school that wishes to hire Tressel in the next five years will have to demonstrate why it needs to employ him. Thus, neither escaped unscathed from the scandal in Columbus, but they are not hit particularly hard as well. Pryor is on the Oakland Raiders roster while Tressel is now a video-review coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. Certainly, that is not the dream job for either man, but each is making a living and still actively involved in the NFL. Continue reading “Ohio State Penalties Enough and Not Enough”

NCAA (Rightly) Shows Little Mercy to Tyler Laser

Do you know who Tyler Laser is? I doubt it and you shouldn’t. I didn’t until a few minutes ago when I came across this article saying that the NCAA had denied Laser’s appeal for an additional season.

Except, Laser’s circumstance is a bit different. The NCAA states that a player can earn an additional year of eligibility if he plays in less than 30 percent of his team’s games (or equal to).

Laser played in 10 games this past season before he was injured and needed season ending surgery. His school, Eastern Illinois, played 29 games on the year. Thus, Laser played in 34.4% of his team’s games.

And that’s all it took. After waiting a few months to hear the answer to his appeal, Laser found out yesterday that his college career had come to an end.

When I first read that article, I was once again annoyed at the NCAA. It seems every week I find a new article that shows how the NCAA is looking out for its bottom line and not the kids that make them that money. But after further reflection, I don’t disagree with them here.

At some point, there has to be a line. The NCAA decided that line was 30 percent, a pretty reasonable number. You can’t just grant slight exceptions, because then that line becomes meaningless. All of a sudden, it’s 35 percent, then 40 and so on and so on. Eventually, a player will miss five games and be eligible for an extra season.

In the article, Diamond Leung contends that “Laser had played one game over the participation limit [30 percent of the season] that would have allowed him to gain back the additional year.” I’m a bit confused on this. If Laser had played in just nine of his team’s 29 games as Leung suggests, that would still be 31 percent and above the NCAA’s threshold.

If somehow Leung meant that if Eastern Illinois had played an additional game than Laser would get an added season, he’d still be wrong. In that case, Laser would have played in one-third of his team’s games.

Either Laser had to play two fewer games (8/29=.275) or Eastern Illinois would have had to play five more games (10/34=.294). That’s more than just a single game as Leung suggests. It’s heartbreaking for Laser, but the NCAA had to draw a line.