UMass found his voice, but despite it all, the outsized NCAA refused to listen


Collens found his voice, but the NCAA still refused to hear him. And with news Wednesday that varsity athletics overlords had rejected UMass’s final appeal regarding his punishment, there’s officially nowhere to turn. The ink, like the tears that flowed, dried on this shameful decision.

“Talking to my best friends and teammates, we feel like it’s changed the image of what we’ve been through as varsity athletes. You go through so much and you hope in the end it’s worth it, ”Collens said last week, while waiting for a flight back from Colombia to be with his family for Thanksgiving. “Winning the A-10 championship in my senior year, going to the NCAA, it felt like all the hard work paid off, we did it, we did it, it’s our reward.

“For the NCAA to put us through hell, to basically say, ‘No, we don’t care about you,’ the fact that they never recognized us, didn’t speak to us once, says it all. . I haven’t heard from anyone inside the [Committee on Infractions] or someone inside the NCAA who had the power over our case, says a lot. They never reached out and made it clear that they didn’t want to hear our voice.

As a recap, Wednesday’s metaphorical hammer ended a story that resonated so loudly in March 2020, a story filled with enough detail to remind us of just how far the Byzantine, convoluted, and convoluted rules of the NCAA remain. But if these reminders are intermittent for most of us, imagine what it feels like to be inside the madness.

“The only word for it is parody,” said Judy Dixon, the record UMass coach who led the championship to retirement, only to have the glorious memory replaced with such pain. “The NCAA is a completely dysfunctional organization and is not about the well-being of students. They need a complete overhaul of their system… it’s broken and small tweaks aren’t enough. Examining this conclusion will make it difficult for other sport departments to self-assess. We are the victims of an unreasonable decision.

“With nothing left in our arsenal, I will just continue with a heavy heart, sadness and anger. It is not justice.

Ryan Bamford and UMass Athletics themselves reported a minor infraction and still received severe penalties.Jessica Hill / Associated Press

The NCAA Offenses Appeal Committee (IAC) upheld the NCAA Offenses Committee (COI) ruling, and an NCAA spokesperson said Thursday there would be no further comment on the 13-page report. From its first official sentence – “The NCAA Division 1 Offenses Appeal Board (IAC) upheld the penalties prescribed by the NCAA Offenses Committee (COI) on October 16, 2020” – throughout From the verbose and convoluted logic that backs the appeal by categorically denying any of UMass’ logical, defensible and credible claims, the report is painful.

And so much the better for UMass sporting director Ryan Bamford for agreeing to say so. From the moment this all unfolded, Bamford has supported his athletes and coaches publicly (it’s not easy when your job requires NCAA approval at all times) and privately, even making sure to call them before the news of the denied appeal is made public. Unlike the initial punishment, when the NCAA announcement blinded Collens so much that she had to stop on her way home after a game to find out what the constant stream of texts on her phone was talking about, there is less. shock this time. But there is always anger, and rightly so.

Describing himself as “deeply disappointed”, Bamford aimed where he belonged. “It is inconceivable to me that these committees canceled a tennis championship because two student-athletes received without knowing it $ 252 over and above the amount authorized for tuition,” he wrote in the statement. school press release. “What message does it send that a member institution in good standing can itself inadvertently report administrative violations – which have provided no recruiting or competitive advantage – and work closely with enforcement staff of the NCAA only to come up with a result that harms our students? athletes and staff who have done nothing wrong? It’s an epic overstepping.

And then he said this, “We are in the golden age of student-athlete rights, but throughout this process the NCAA enforcement mechanisms have revealed that this important move is not. fully supported by NCAA staff or members of own association. We say we are here for our students, but we do incongruous things over and over again. It is shameful.

This is an important point. The stance of what the NCAA insists we call the student-athlete is changing, finally tilting the balance of power in their direction, as shown by recent legislation that allows them to profit from their name, of their image and likeness. But it changes more than that, with voices like Collens’, supported by people like Bamford.

“I got the text from Ryan and he said, ‘I’m so sorry, thank you for everything you’ve done, keep fighting,” ”said Collens. “It made me happy for so many reasons. All that really pisses me off about the NCAA is that there aren’t a lot of people willing to speak out against them who are in the system right now. This is understandable. You can get fired. Ryan’s words, speaking publicly about this in an age of college athletes finally benefiting from health and safety efforts and NIL rules, with him being so clear on his position from the inside, it lets us know that the reform works.

“Overall, it’s so disappointing. But it will make a difference in the future.

Tara Sullivan is a columnist for The Globe. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.

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