Thirteen Iowa football players are recovering after being hospitalized with exertional illness. What should be learned?
A bullet dodged. The episode involving the hospitalization of 13 Iowa football players for exertional illness is one of the most frightening college sports stories in recent memory.
To review, 13 Iowa players were hospitalized this week after especially strenuous offseason workouts. Their symptoms included dizziness and dark urine.
Here are the articles written in the wake of the event (the number of affected players originally was 12 but later became 13):
Iowa football players cite strenuous workouts before hospitalizations (Des Moines Register)
12 football players hospitalized with exertional condition (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
Why are 13 Iowa players hospitalized? No firm answers (HawkCentral.com)
The HawkCentral.com article portrayed the condition as fairly common for settings like military training and NFL camps.
But multiple days of hospitalization? Clearly, this was a serious problem.
Some blunt commentary followed, raising legitimate questions about football out-of-season conditioning practices:
Offseason workouts need changes before the next funeral (Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com)
Was Iowa punishing players? (Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com)
Iowa deserves close scrutiny after 13 players hospitalized (Matt Hayes, Sporting News)
No explanation reasonable when workout puts 13 in hospital (Gregg Doyel, CBSSports.com)
Parallels have been drawn to the 1997 wrestling-workout deaths, but the circumstances with this case are different. In wrestling, inappropriate workouts were designed for a particular purpose: to make weight. Part of the remedy was to prohibit particular practices, but the main solution was to establish baseline weights for the wrestlers so that the incentive for dangerous weight-loss practices was eliminated.
The Iowa episode didn’t involve rubber suits or steam rooms or purposeful vomiting. Instead, it appeared to be about traditional workout practices, done to excess.
The Dodd column quoted Oklahoma head trainer Scott Anderson from various presentations over the last year: “The way we’re training college football players in this day and age is putting them at risk … The intensity with which it (offseason drills) is done is not sport-specific. The intensity becomes irrational. The intensity, if not the drill, is wholly, fully irrelevant to sport. It’s just purely, openly punishment, not performance.”
What should be done to prevent something like this from happening again?
Emmert on the record. NCAA President Mark Emmert was in the news recently, taking on everything from college sports financing to whether college athletes have become too shielded from professional sports.
Mark Emmert says NCAA doesn’t have ‘tsunami of cash’ (The Associated Press)
New NCAA president speaks candidly at Winthrop event (Rock Hill Herald)
Pay-to-play not the way [The State (Columbia, S.C.)]
Q&A with NCAA President Mark Emmert (Omaha World-Herald)
When Emmert wasn’t saying something himself, things were being said about him:
What did he know, when did he know it? (Jay Bilas, ESPN)
Bilas lived up to his usual standards of self-assuredness, chiding the NCAA president for daring to say that most programs did not recruit Enes Kanter because they knew of the eligibility risks. Kentucky did sign Canter, and he was subsequently ruled ineligible. “The truth is, Emmert has no earthly idea what people in college basketball ‘knew,’ ” Bilas wrote.
Basketball analyst, lawyer and clairvoyant. Bilas’ talents know no bounds.
By the way, a fan/“reporter” from Kentucky recently planted himself outside the NCAA building, ostensibly refusing to leave until his questions about Kanter were answered. That technique isn’t going to work most of the time, but in this case, NCAA Director of Communication Strategy Chuck Wynne surprised Drew Franklin by providing a number of candid and specific answers about the Kanter case. The seven-minute video is an entertaining and interesting watch.
Texas media agreement, Part 2. Last week brought the news of the 20-year, $300 million Texas-ESPN media agreement. This week came the analysis:
Texas Longhorns set bad precedent with TV deal (Drew Sharp, Detroit News)
OU football: Will Texas network hurt? (Berry Tramel, The Oklahoman)
Time Warner Cable in talks for Longhorns network stake (SportsBusiness Journal)
Why Texas should go independent (Brian Fremeau, ESPN)
On the subject of big bucks, the SportsBusiness Journal reported that this was a lucrative year for the Bowl Championship Series:
BCS payouts grow along with big shares for Big Six conferences (SportsBusiness Journal)
Meanwhile, in Division II … Last week I mentioned that the NCAA GOALS and SCORE studies had guided important decision-making, especially with Division II’s Life in the Balance initiative. Inside Higher Ed’s David Moltz took a good luck at how Division II has achieved addition through subtraction:
Less-is-more approach to sports (Inside Higher Ed)
By the way, the article includes praise for Division II’s approach from Allen Sack, one of the nation’s most vocal critics of many college sports practices. “All of these efforts that have been afoot in Division II to ease up on athletes and let them be students, that’s what’s being lost at the Division I level,” Sack said. “I really don’t see any effort being made at that level to make a compromise on this, but I’d like to see it.”
Oversigning. Discussion about oversigning recruiting classes in Division I football is gaining energy.
Oversigning offenders won’t be curbed by NCAA’s toothless rule (Andy Staples, SI.com)
A better oversigning rule (John Infante, NCAA Bylaw Blog)
Conference realignment updates. Will a week pass without news about possible changes in Division I conferences? Maybe, but probably not in our lifetimes.
Mountain West won’t expand further (The Associated Press)
Big East needs to get tough with Notre Dame (David Lariviere, Forbes)
Higher education issues. This week yielded discussions about the future of higher education.
The New York Times assembled experts to react to the book “Academically Adrift,” which asserts that almost half of all college students learn little in their first two years.
Does college make you smarter? (New York Times)
The observations are edgy, including the charge that colleges and universities are less interested in education than in keeping cash-paying students happy.
That discussion has ramifications for the high-entertainment approach of the biggest Division I programs, and that point was discussed Thursday at Stanford:
On another higher ed matter, a looming funding crisis was examined in detail in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
State spending on higher education edges down, as deficits loom (Chronicle of Higher Education)
The gist is that public higher education institutions are facing potentially catastrophic funding shortfalls as federal stimulus money evaporates and tax cuts take hold.
Some presidents and administrators even have a name for it: The Cliff.
I spoke about with Metro State President Stephen Jordan a while back about how The Cliff relates to athletics, and here’s some of what he had to say:
“If you’re already faced with losing 20 percent of your state support and making cuts, do you think there are institutions that can do that and do it only on the academic and student-services side and leave athletics untouched? I think the small institutions are most afraid of the impact this will have because they don’t have an ability to make that up much. Their size really limits the way they can respond….
“At a minimum, it has the potential to imperil individual programs. In some cases, it might imperil entire athletic departments. And I think people are scared to death about this right now….
“I’m not convinced at this point that there’s a lot that can be done (NCAA) legislatively to solve this problem. Anything we do that reduces competitions and reduces the expenses associated with out-of-season is important. I do think the problem we have is the disconnect between the reality of what senior-level people are dealing with on the financial picture and the pressure that coaches and athletic directors put to keep everything the way it is. We’ve got to start finding ways to reduce our costs. To me, again, it’s the number of games, travel time and the things that we keep over time adding to be included in scholarships. All those things add up….
“Student fees might be a part of the solution, but here’s what’s going to happen: The make-up for the general-fund cuts, the institutions are going to do it by raising tuition. So the fees have to be looked at in the context of … all these other decisions presidents are going to have to make about how they keep the ship afloat.”
Putting the ‘student’ back in ‘student-athlete.’ Rob Kasper of the Baltimore Sun this week put together an excellent column:
Putting the ‘student’ back in ‘student-athlete’ at College Park (Rob Kasper, Baltimore Sun)
Here’s his conclusion: “Collegiate football is certainly a big business, and the notion of student-athletes may seem quaint in an era of multimillion-dollar sponsorships and TV contracts. But we should remember that the athletes themselves are the only ones not getting paid in the bargain, and very few of them will get the ultimate payoff of a professional career. The football players bring prestige to the university, and they pay the way for much of the rest of the athletic department. The least we can do in exchange is to make sure they actually get an education.”
Thomas Robinson’s tragedy. Kansas basketball player Thomas Robinson has lived a lifetime of difficulty in the month. First, his maternal grandparents died about two weeks apart. Then last Friday, his mother Lisa died suddenly from a heart attack. Robinson was left trying to figure out how to care for his 9-year-old sister Jayla.
The story is sad beyond words, but the response has been uplifting.
Kansas raising money for Robinson’s younger sister (The Associated Press)
KU fans close ranks around Robinson (Kansas City Star)
NCAA grants relief for Kansas athletics to assist Robinson (University Daily Kansan)
For what it’s worth, a couple of the benefits provided in this case (such as permitting the university to pay for travel to Ms. Robinson’s funeral) are explicitly covered in the Division I Manual and didn’t require any special NCAA authorization or confirmation.
Finally … Thursday was the 10th anniversary of one of the saddest days in college sports history. On Jan. 27, 2001, a plane crash killed 10 Oklahoma State men’s basketball players and staff members.
OSU plane crash incites change in athletic travel (Tulsa World)