You would think this would be an obvious slam dunk to correct.
Whenever an Oregon football player struggled, vomited or fainted during a strenuous January 2017 workout, two lawsuits allege, their teammates would be punished with additional repetitions. Three Ducks players were hospitalized following the session and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, an overexertion-induced syndrome that damages muscle fibers and releases their contents into the bloodstream.
In charge of the training? Strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde, whose sole credential was a 21-hour strength training course offered by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, which he reportedly attained while at South Florida in 2016. Oderinde received a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from Western Kentucky and master’s degree in sport management from Kentucky, though neither of those would certify him to be a strength and conditioning coach…
Under NCAA Bylaw 11, strength and conditioning coaches are required only to take a “nationally accredited strength and conditioning certification program,” a broad spectrum that includes Oderinde’s 21-hour course. And there is no language that prevents strength and conditioning coaches from reporting directly to head coaches.
Brian Hainline, chief medical officer of the NCAA’s Sports Science Institute, told Sporting News the NCAA was looking at bolstering accreditation standards for strength and conditioning coaches “in the next year or two,” though no formal measures have yet been introduced or reviewed.
But you, my friend, aren’t the NCAA.
In 2015, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) — considered industry leaders in strength and conditioning accreditation — asked the NCAA for “higher professional guidelines” for strength and conditioning coaches to become credentialed, according to CBS. Since then, the NSCA and CSCCa have grown frustrated at the lack of NCAA action, sending a follow-up letter that reiterated their policy recommendations in March 2017.
NSCA board president Dr. Travis Triplett told SN that the politics of the NCAA — namely, how conferences and individual athletic programs oppose what they perceive as meddling — has made progress toward improved certification standards slow. Her view is reminiscent of medical experts’ frustration with the NCAA’s approach to preventing non-traumatic injury and death.
“I don’t know if they received enough pressure to back off and they just feel like they can’t really enforce it, I just don’t really know what their thinking is,” Triplett said. “We feel like … we’ve got that credibility that (the NCAA) should say, ‘Yes, you need one of these two certifications (from either the NSCA or the CSCCa). You can have the other ones as support ones.’”
Whatever could be the problem? It’s the NCAA, so that means one thing.
… William Brooks — who has litigated issues of sports compliance and NCAA rules infractions for Alabama-based law firm Lightfoot, Franklin & White — believes it’s not yet determined whether the NCAA has a legal duty to protect student-athletes. That said, he believes if the NCAA made rules on issues such as strength and conditioning coach certification, it could essentially give the organization a caretaking role in the eyes of courts.
Brooks said he expects the Oregon case — like similar cases before it — will be settled before trial. Still, he is curious how it will shape a continuously evolving dialogue about the NCAA’s role in protecting its student-athletes.
“If they were to enact specific rules or requirements, those likely would be subject to an attack in a particular case if they weren’t good enough and the NCAA had undertaken a duty of protecting student-athletes,” Brooks said. “It wouldn’t be hard to imagine an instance where some kind of injury occurred and a player were to argue that the NCAA’s rules, if they had enacted some, were insufficient and the NCAA was negligent.”
Gee, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say there’s something that trumps doing it for the kids in the NCAA’s playbook.
By the way, Oderinde is the head strength and conditioning coach at Florida State now.