This morning, on “the Twitter,” Texas A&M compliance officer Brad Barnes posed an interesting question: should NCAA athletes from all countries be allowed to accept Olympic monetary rewards without giving up their college eligibility?
Per the NCAA bylaws:
|Title:188.8.131.52.4.3.3 - Operation Gold Grant.|
|An individual (prospective student-athlete or student-athlete) may accept funds that are administered by the U.S. Olympic Committee pursuant to its Operation Gold program. (Adopted: 4/26/01)|
This rule has already come into the headlines since London, as it was what allowed Missy Franklin to still reap some financial benefits from her four-gold-medal Olympic performance without giving up her college eligibility.
Specifically, the USOC pays out $25,000 for each gold medal, $15,000 for each silver medal, and $10,000 for each bronze medal won at the Olympics.
Now, the question has been posed as to whether or not an NCAA athletes should be able to receive similar benefits from their home country: at present, they are not able to do so.
The first hurdle to get past is whether or not international athletes should be allowed in the NCAA; they are at present, and that’s not necessarily the topic for discussion here, so let’s sidestep that one for the time being. Given that they are being allowed, should they receive the same rights to reward for Olympic benefits as American athletes are?
Under Title VII laws, it could be argued that this rule is discrimination on the basis of National Origin: athletes from other countries are not entitled to receive the equivalent as athletes from this country, even if they are U.S. Citizens (in many cases, international Olympians are also U.S. Citizens).
The logic behind only specifically allowing the American program is easy to see: it’s easier for the NCAA, based in the United States, to monitor payments from the USOC than it would be, for example, from the Russian Olympic Committee or the Kenyan Olympic Committee. On the other hand, allowing payments from other countries’ Olympic Committees would seem to hold with the logic of the rules: payments directly from the USOC do not come from any specific sponsor, encourage elite international achievement, and do not give an athlete incentive to choose one college over the other.
It’s a tricky situation, but with the fervor growing over both Olympic payments for professional athletes and payments for NCAA athletes, this rule seems to be the next logical step for athletes to take major issue with. The question is how loudly the cries of international athletes will be heard in the U.S. collegiate system.
Notably, in London there was only a single international athlete who would be affected by this – Vlad Morozov, who was on Russia’s bronze-medal winning 400 free relay. Other examples from past years include Slovenian 200 free silver medalist in 2008 Sara Isakovic still had eligibility left to swim for Cal. Other countries offer rewards to their athletes for final’ing, for example, as well.