To the editor:
Upon hearing the now-constant chatter on the necessity of the NCAA paying collegiate student athletes, I feel compelled to write. I attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville (in the hometown of Dean Martin.) In my junior year, I elected to play for the university's rugby team. This was not a light undertaking. For those who don't know, rugby is essentially 15-on-15 tackle football without pads. There is no forward passing, so if you get the ball, you probably are going to get hit. There was no such thing as 40 seconds between plays. Aside from injury, it is uninterrupted for each 40-minute half. Though the physical skill, speed and build requirements of Division I athletes dwarf ours in embarrassing fashion, the stamina and courage it takes for our sport is unequaled.
When I signed up, I wasn't afforded training tables. There were no free meals or athlete dorms and no scholarships. It meant paying for my own co-pays at the ER. And, yes, chipping in for rides to the away games (and we were a top-level team.) It meant supplying all my own equipment. Indeed, we got team shirts at a cost of $20, which I paid for by working my campus job for four hours.
There was no professional rugby league at the end of the tunnel, no chance at eventual endorsements. I wasn't going to earn a free ride, much less gain a million dollar internship. All of my teammates and I played for three things: For the pride of representing our great university, for love of the game and for love of each other. And I loved every day, minute and second of it.
I graduated without any alumni hook-ups due to my play. Despite working every summer to pay for tuition, I graduated with student loans, which I continue to pay off. While on the surface we got "nothing" out of it, the tests of time disagree. The brotherhood of 40 guys working in unison for the same purpose, picking each other up and growing together into men surpasses whatever stipend the NCAA can make. Perhaps America should realize not all experiences are monetary.
Class of 2003