Posted May 13th, 2007 @ 11:29am by Erik J. Barzeski
Today on ESPN's Outside the Lines, Bob Ley headed the discussion surrounding (on Mother's Day, of course) of pregnant female college athletes on athletic scholarship. The question: should they forfeit their scholarship?
Several issues surfaced in support of allowing the student athletes to retain their scholarship, not the least of which was Title 9, which guarantees that female athletes be granted the same opportunities as male athletes. Some argued that Title 9 supported the claim that pregnant female athletes should not have their scholarships revoked. That's a silly argument, as males can't get pregnant, and Title 9 sought to force schools to award equal athletic scholarships (both in number and value) to males and females. It says nothing of the choices an athlete makes or the literal physical differences between men and women. Its application here is, thus, silly.
Another argument attempted to draw a parallel between injured and pregnant athletes. If an athlete injures himself (or herself) playing, practicing, or training for his or her sport, that athlete's scholarship remains intact. That's as it should be. Why then not for athletes who become pregnant, the argument was made? This argument is sillier than the Title 9 argument for obvious reasons: choosing to get knocked up is nowhere near the same as practicing, training, or playing the sport for which you got a free ride.
Personally, I side with the schools who choose to suspend the athletic scholarship while someone is pregnant. I think it's their right, and I think the schools should be able to decide to revoke on an individual basis. If a volleyball, basketball, or softball player can't play to their usual level because they're pregnant, they're not honoring the understanding that the school is giving them a free ride educationally in exchange for their athletic talents. Colleges only have x number of full scholarships to hand out per sport, so whether that number is 3 or 23, I believe the universities and schools have the right to make sure those scholarships1 are being used by athletes, not educating a mother who made a choice to get pregnant.
If a student-athlete gets pregnant and has a child outside of the season and in a way that doesn't affect their athletic ability in-season, I would support the continuance of that individual's scholarship. In all other cases, for me, it really boils down to that basic understanding between school and athlete. It's the school saying "we will educate you, free, in exchange for your athletic abilities, which make us money." It's the athlete saying "I accept the free education and in exchange will allow you to profit from my athletic abilities." Without the athletic abilities - by conscious decision of the athlete and not due to an accident or injury - the understanding is broken.
P.S. A special case must be made for rape pregnancies, I would agree. In such a case - rare as they are - I would argue the student-athlete had no choice in the matter and should be supported in continuing their education (whether they choose to have the child or not). For the simplicity of the poll, a third "Yes except for rape" option does not exist.
- I think calling them "scholarships" is misleading, as is "student-athlete." I suspect the numbers are better on the female side of things, given the difference in male and female professional athletics, but how many college athletes on athletic scholarships would qualify as "scholars" in the sense of being educationally talented?↩