During the debate over the potential unionization of collegiate student-athletes, many have argued against a union by pointing to the fact that student-athletes receive scholarships. That argument misses the point that student-athletes aren’t only looking for compensation and health benefits, but they are looking for a voice in NCAA and university matters. At present, student-athletes have no such voice.
Case in point: Leticia Romero. Mechelle Voepel of espnW.com covered the story of Romero, a freshman basketball player at Kansas State University, who sought a transfer after the coaching staff that recruited her was fired. Kansas State, however, has refused to grant Romero her release and upheld the denial on appeal. Voepel writes that Kansas State may have denied the appeal because the school is unhappy with the way Romero went about asking for a release and because a member of the departing coaching staff was trying to influence Romero’s decision.
Here are my thoughts on the story:
- Voepel hits the nail on the head when she writes that there is no one to help Romero through the process. Everyone that she can talk to either works for Kansas State or the NCAA. Student-athletes clearly need a voice in the process and they need advocates to protect their rights.
- I cringed when I read that Romero resisted suggestions to hire an attorney because she didn’t want to fight with the university. Unfortunately, she is already in a fight and she is not winning. Few student-athletes can successfully navigate this process without assistance from an attorney or individual experienced in such matters.
- Any denial of a transfer waiver should be accompanied by a written explanation of the grounds for the school’s decision.
- If the school is refusing a waiver because one of its former coaches is trying to influence Romero to transfer, Kansas State should deal with the coach, not punish the student-athlete.
- Transfer rules need a complete overhaul. Student-athletes should be free to transfer after a coaching a change, without the need for a waiver. In fact, I believe that, unless the school has provided a 4-year guaranteed scholarship, the student-athlete should be free to transfer at any time. If the school has only committed to the student-athlete for one year, his or her commitment should be limited to one year. I also believe that students with a certain GPA should be able to transfer freely. For more detail, check out my post A Working Proposal to Change NCAA Transfer Rules.
This story is neither new nor unique – see Todd O’Brien, Brock Berglund and Dominque Ferguson, to name a few. But in the context of the unionization debate, it certainly demonstrates the need for a union or serious reform to the current rules.