Here’s your weekly reminder that the NCAA is run by petty assholes.
When Brittany Collens first saw the news, she figured it was a joke. It was last October, and Collens, a professional tennis player, was driving home following a workout when her coach texted her an article about the National Collegiate Athletic Association punishing the University of Massachusetts, Amherst women’s tennis program for violating its amateurism rules.
Didn’t you play at UMass? her coach texted.
Collens did. As a senior in 2017, she helped the school win its first Atlantic 10 title in 15 years, capping a memorable season for Collens and her tight-knit teammates with what she calls “an absolutely fairy-tale ending.”
But now—three years later and completely out of the blue—the clock was striking midnight. After pulling off the road, Collens read the article. The NCAA was vacating 49 UMass women’s tennis victories from 2014-15 to 2016-17, including the team’s conference championship, because two players had received money from the school exceeding the full cost of attendance—thereby flouting the sacred and fundamental principle that college athletes shall not get more than whatever the NCAA says they are allowed to get, currently the value of their athletic scholarships plus cost of living stipends.
Curiosity curdling into disbelief, Collens realized that she and her former roommate, Anna Woosley, were the two players in question. Their terrible, no-good amateurism crime? When the pair moved out of dorms and into off-campus housing during their junior year, the school mistakenly continued to include a $252 telecommunications subsidy in their scholarship checks.
“It’s a stipend for athletes in on-campus housing, so they can have a phone jack for a landline,” Collens says. “I didn’t have a landline when I lived on campus. So I never even noticed it. I had to call my former coach and the UMass [athletic director] so they could explain what was happening, and why I was in trouble.
“It just doesn’t make sense. The rules don’t make sense.”
To you, that’s a bug. To Mark Emmert, it’s a feature. He must defend this amateurism.