COLUMN: Dear GS men’s basketball seniors, the NCAA did you dirty

Amanda Arnold

Dear GS men’s basketball seniors, 

When the NCAA decision came out that they would not grant winter athletes another year of eligibility, I was sick to my stomach. The only thing worse than getting the majority of your season taken away from you midway through it is getting your season taken away from you right at the end. This article is not meant to bash the NCAA, but I am mad. I understand the reasoning … a large percentage of the season was already over so what’s the point, right? Wrong. Can you imagine if the NFL canceled the Super Bowl in January right before the last playoff game?

College basketball players around the country have worked for months and months to put themselves in prime positions for postseason play … just to get their dreams trashed and not even be able to make up for it. March Madness is not only just a money making opportunity for the NCAA, but it is what some athletes work towards their entire life. NBA players, team owners and scouts are tuned into the tournament and for some student-athletes, the tournament is their time to show NBA scouts that they can perform under pressure.

Every single time I interview athletes and ask what their ultimate goal is for the season, they say to win the conference. Well, the men’s basketball team was on a roll in the Sun Belt Tournament. There’s no telling what would’ve happened. 

Financially, I understand that it is too expensive to grant both winter and spring athletes another season, but it’s hard for me to find sympathy for an organization that makes money off of free labor from young twenty-somethings, anyways. In 2011, TNT, CBS, TBS and TruTV paid the NCAA upwards of $10.8 billion to broadcast March Madness games for 14 years. This number does not include ad revenue or ticket sales. Since the NCAA canceled the tournament, for the right reasons of course, Investopedia reported that the league lost $933 million. This is a lot of money, but this is also the same organization that refused to pay athletes for decades. I don’t want to say it’s karma … but what else would I call it?

Athletes live and breathe sports day in and day out. Now, the seniors on the GS men’s basketball team will have to wonder ‘what if’ for the rest of their lives. For example, Ike Smith fought to make his way back to the Sun Belt Tournament. Back injuries are hard to come back from, but he did it. Not only did he do it, but he did it well. Sitting out an entire year injured must’ve been a nightmare. But, surely winning a conference title was his motivation. By not giving these seniors their last chance for a shot at a title, the NCAA is telling the seniors that all of their hard work was for nothing. They will look at this season as nothing more than just the season that they didn’t get to finish.

Instead of completely canceling the postseason, why not consider just postponing it? A March Madness in August with this season’s roster could be interesting … These players aren’t being paid and they would obviously be given a choice of whether to play or not. If they have post graduation jobs lined up and can’t do it, then fine. But at least they were given the opportunity. I’m not sure how this would work with the NBA draft, but that will most likely be pushed back as well.

Let’s look back at everything the team has done this season. They went undefeated at home until the end of January, Ike Smith returned, and they defeated Georgia State in the second round of the SBC by 21 points. Yes, 21 points. There were hiccups in the season, of course, but no team has a perfect season.

This year was supposed to be the year for GS, now Eagle Nation will never know the outcome. The world of college basketball fans are stuck making foolish brackets during quarantine and the NCAA won’t even release a potential bracket. 

Dan Gavitt, vice president of basketball for the NCAA said, “The important work of the basketball committees is to set up competitively-balanced brackets to determine national champions,” Gavitt said. “I don’t believe it’s responsible or fair to do that with incomplete seasons — especially for tournaments that unfortunately won’t be played. Therefore there will not be any NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball championship selection shows or tournament brackets released this year.”

The least the league could do for these athletes is to let them know what their chances were in the tournament … Come on.

In conclusion, I believe that the NCAA should have thought about winter athletes more. They played their entire season just to get it taken away from them when it mattered the most. I can’t express how bad I feel for this team. Through the ups and downs, they stuck together and now the seniors will have to wonder “what if” for the rest of their lives.

Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, [email protected]