Early recruiting undermines the fundamental principles of being a “student-athlete” and the role of sports in education. When 13-year old girls are recruited for college sports before they even play a high school game, the model has broken down. The ideals of amateurism have eroded as universities compete to win, not just in sports, but campus facilities and national rankings. Sports helps to showcase a university’s prestige even in non-revenue generating sports like women’s lacrosse.
The NCAA President, Mark Emmert, set forth three pillars: academics, well-being and fairness, to ensure that college sports remain a pathway of opportunity for student-athletes to shape their future. Early recruiting infringes on these pillars and the NCAA’s “student-centered” mission to prioritize academics over athletics. The NCAA Constitution states,
Student-athletes shall be amateurs in an intercollegiate sport, and their participation should be motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental and social benefits to be derived.
Sports should play a positive role in the overall educational experience of a student-athlete, not facilitate a process that recruits years before college admissions and disadvantages those who cannot afford to participate. Guided by the principles set forth by the NCAA and ideals of amateurism, the pending early recruiting legislation should pass but unfortunately, previous proposals have been rejected.
Our mission is to be an
integral part of higher education and focus on the development of our student-athletes. We must be student-centered in all that we do. The Association was founded on the notion of
integrating athletics into the educational experience, and we have to make sure we deliver on tha
100-year old promise." NCAA President - Mark Emmert
Over the course of the last three years, I have had the privilege to meet hundreds of female lacrosse players, their parents and coaches. These young women are tremendous student-athletes and should be commended for achieving such high levels both on the field and in the classroom. One of the most rewarding aspects is to see the evolution of women's sports since I played at Brown in the 1990s when the university faced a Title IX lawsuit.
The fact that universities are competing to recruit top female athletes at such an early age is a testament to how far women's sports has evolved. However, the expansion of opportunities for girls to play sports should not come at the expense of their "well-being" and education. While the NCAA can mitigate issues with legislation, there will always be loopholes and universities will need to assume greater responsibility to determine the real future of the role of sports in education.