Winning three All-American awards has helped take the edge off a frustrating end to the 2019/2020 NCAA athletics season for University of Texas sophomore Julien Alfred.

At 5-foot seven inches Kahlil Walker is tiny by basketball standards, but what he lacks in height he more than makes up for with his passion for the sport and an incredible brain.

Having signed for Mississippi State University (MSU) in the USA this past week, Kingston College star jumper Shacquille Lowe is looking forward to winning titles and battling with former teammate Carey McLeod when he begins his collegiate career, hopefully in the fall.

I have long since remonstrated against the US colleges’ ‘abuse’ of athletes.

I am, of course, not talking about the rigours athletes go through trying to keep their GPAs while being asked to run at track meets week in, week out and burning out before big events like World Championships and Olympic Games. That is for another discussion.

I am talking about the massive amounts of money colleges earn on the names of their sports stars without ever having to shell out any money to these athletes who must make do with whatever their parents can scrape together or side jobs will allow. All this while being asked to train for long hours, in addition to making heads or tails of their classes.

It has long been the practice of the United States Collegiate governing body, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to put an athlete in the class of professional if he were to earn from his sporting endeavours and therefore be barred from participating in college sport.

On the face of it, I get it. Doing that should limit corruption from private entities, agents and the like, from ‘buying athletes’ and keep the college experience clean.

However, the truth is, the laws around professional athletes versus amateur athletes have meant that for some, they are forced to choose sport over education, like the high-school basketball star who goes straight to the NBA, or the first-year linebacker who chooses to forego the rest of his university education for the NFL.

That ‘some’ who I speak of are the lucky ones. Because the truth is, there are many others who get injured along the way or simply do not make the transition after college and they will never earn a dollar from the sport they have given quite a bit to.

College sport in the US is big business. The coaches earn multiples of millions per year, the schools earn millions from merchandising and ticket sales. But the student-athletes who they earn on the backs of, make nothing. A wholly exploitative situation if you ask me.

On the quiet, when a poor student from a rural community in the United States, or even the Caribbean, is wanted by a number of schools, boosters will offer ‘gifts’ to the parents to make their college the choice.

Can you imagine, a poor mother living in a one-room dwelling getting an upgraded house, a car, or even cash to feed the rest of her family? I would have loved to have been able to do that (talent aside) for my parents when a college came calling.

But in order to do that, you have to keep quiet about it. As if it weren’t your talent that was being courted. If it were ever found out, you would lose it all and you might even find yourself in legal troubles.

That hasn’t changed, but the NCAA’s decision to allow athletes to earn from the use of their image and likeness is a step in the right direction.

Now, maybe some of the big bucks the colleges and coaches and everybody else involved in collegiate sport seems to make, can go back to the people who actually earn it.

The Board of Governors of the NCAA met on the issue this week and agreed that athletes should be allowed to receive compensation for third-party endorsements “both related and separate from athletics.”

In addition, athletes can receive payment for other opportunities that come with stardom. “Social media, businesses they have started and personal appearances” make the list of areas in which athletes are now ‘allowed’ to earn while maintaining their amateur status.

Still, payment will not come from universities for this stardom and I believe that is where the rule-change falls short.

The schools make a killing off their athletes and should give back. Again, I get it, the idea is to make for a level playing field where wealthy schools don’t end up with all the great athletes.

But doesn’t that happen anyway?

The United States collegiate and Jamaican Track and Field community are in mourning over the passing of former George Mason University coach, Dalton Ebanks, who died Saturday from complications of the Coronavirus Covid-19.

Noted Jamaica track and field coach Stephen Francis expects collegiate athletes to be hardest hit by the current shutdown surrounding the coronavirus pandemic but insists all is not yet lost.

The rapid onslaught of the infectious disease has seen the postponement or cancellation of sporting events around the globe.  In a bid to halt the spread of the virus, many universities in the United States have closed their doors, with the National Collegiate Athletic Association taking the decision to axe its spring athletics season last week.

Further afield, pressure continues to mount on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Tokyo Games, with the latest news suggesting a decision would be reached in four weeks’ time.  With the universities serving as a home, training base and source of frequent and healthy competition for athletes who may qualify to take part in the Olympics, Francis believes they will be hardest hit.  The list could include several Jamaicans. 

“The biggest problem I see is the NCs (NCAA) because that is where you have the most breakthroughs, so to speak, and that’s cancelled,” Francis told RJR Sports.

“Those athletes can’t even train because their coaches are gone home and the universities are closed, so most of them are without a coach,” he added.

“But by and large for most of the world much hasn’t changed, people still, for the most part, can do their workouts; they can’t compete but it’s up to the coaches to devise methods for substituting for competition.”

Francis believes, however, that athlete should not worry about missing out on the Olympics Games if it is cancelled, as there would still be opportunities to shine. 

“Every year you have people that make a breakthrough, but I don’t think you need the Olympics to make a breakthrough.  You can make a breakthrough so long as there are meets to be run."

Francis has coached the likes of Olympics and world champion medallists Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Melanie Walker, Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Asafa Powell.

 

 

Veronica Campbell-Brown only competed for the University of Arkansas for one indoor and outdoor season, but her presence there legitimized their sprint programme, said Razorbacks Coach Lance Harter.

Driven by a hunger for success, St Lucia’s Julien Alfred won the sprint double at the Big 12 indoor Track and Field Championships on the weekend spurring the University of Texas Longhorns women’s team to their third straight team title.

St Lucian teen sensation Julien Alfred raced to fast times at the Dr Martin Luther King Collegiate Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico this weekend.

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