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Pregnant College Athletes and Athletic Scholarships

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.

Should female college athletes on athletic scholarship have their scholarship revoked if a non-rape pregnancy affects their in-season athletic ability?
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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.

Footnotes

  1. 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?

19 Responses to "Pregnant College Athletes and Athletic Scholarships"

  1. Knocked up?!? By conscious decision?!? Do you mean females who became pregnant after accepting sperm from a male partner who consciously chose to become a father?

    I've been reading you for quite a while, Eric, and I never would have expected you to be a chauvinist who believes that all women "consciously decide" and then "choose" to become "knocked up." Sometimes life comes forth whether you choose it to or not, even when you've decided you do not want to become pregnant and preventive measures are taken. I can't imagine a young college female athlete working hard to excel at her sport and acquiring a scholarship and then "consciously choosing" to "get knocked up" and add a baby to her college life. Often times, like an injury or accident, pregnancy is completely unplanned and unexpected. So why should she be punished?

    So she sits out a season, no differently than someone with an injury sitting out until she is physically able to play again. If, once she is able to play again, she chooses not to return to her sport then she should lose her scholarship, but if she chooses to remain on the team, then she should retain her scholarship.

    Having a child should not enter anywhere into the equation; just the pregnancy. Knowing she intends to return to the team after she delivers and recovers physically, just as an injured player returns after recovery, there is no need to revoke her scholarship.

    Unless, of course, the school revokes the scholarship of ANYONE who can not play due to ANY unforeseen reason, regardless of their intention to play again after recovering.

    Otherwise, if exceptions are made for "unplanned injuries" and "unplanned accidents" or "unplanned disease" there is no reason to exclude "unplanned pregnancy," either.

  2. Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    I've been reading you for quite a while, Eric,

    … but not long enough to know how to spell my name?

    Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    and I never would have expected you to be a chauvinist who believes that all women "consciously decide" and then "choose" to become "knocked up." Sometimes life comes forth whether you choose it to or not, even when you've decided you do not want to become pregnant and preventive measures are taken.

    The problem with that logic is that pregnancy is 100% preventable. Don't have sex.

    Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    I can't imagine a young college female athlete working hard to excel at her sport and acquiring a scholarship and then "consciously choosing" to "get knocked up" and add a baby to her college life.

    Again, by choosing to have sex, they're putting a baby in play, so to speak. I'm not saying these women are literally trying to get pregnant, but everyone knows sometimes condoms break and that no form of birth control is 100% effective. That's not up for debate.

    Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    So she sits out a season, no differently than someone with an injury sitting out until she is physically able to play again.

    Again, quite different, as I outlined above. Ben Roethlisberger injured himself by being stupid riding a motorcycle. He hurt his team, himself, and his fans by choosing to do something outside of his sport. Had he been seriously injured in a football game, the reaction would have been quite different.

    Though I'm not trying to say that getting pregnant is like smashing up your face while not wearing protection, the reactions to the two forms of injury we're discussing. One is in the interest (by playing, practicing, or training) for the athletic endeavor and the other is in complete opposition to it.

    Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    Having a child should not enter anywhere into the equation; just the pregnancy. Knowing she intends to return to the team after she delivers and recovers physically, just as an injured player returns after recovery, there is no need to revoke her scholarship.

    And I suppose the team should just suffer, and the university should suffer, for the time the player is unable to fulfill their obligation - again, by choice to get pregnant - while they're pregnant or nursing.

    Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    Unless, of course, the school revokes the scholarship of ANYONE who can not play due to ANY unforeseen reason, regardless of their intention to play again after recovering.

    Again, pregnancy is not unforseen. If you're having sex, you're putting yourself at risk of pregnancy. And unlike playing the sport (which puts you at risk of injury), it's not related to the playing, training, etc. of the sport.

    Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    Knocked up?!? By conscious decision?!? Do you mean females who became pregnant after accepting sperm from a male partner who consciously chose to become a father?

    And to answer that, yes, by engaging in sex (protected or otherwise), the male is consciously deciding to accept the risk of potentially becoming a father. It goes both ways, and it has nothing to do with gender.

    College student-athletes are given $40,000 in education value per year. They're expected not to drink, do drugs, or otherwise engage in behavior that would be bad for the university OR the sport for which they play. Pregnancy, for women, is bad for that player's performance in the sport.

    As I said above, if the pregnancy falls outside of the season, fine. But imagine you had a basketball player who put on 30 pounds by eating, didn't work out, and otherwise became physically unable to play basketball - not by injury, but by choice. Should they keep their scholarship? No - they've failed to honor their agreement or the understanding between university and athlete.

    1. And to answer that, yes, by engaging in sex (protected or otherwise), the male is consciously deciding to accept the risk of potentially becoming a father. It goes both ways, and it has nothing to do with gender.

      I'm going to have to disagree w/ you. An unplanned pregnancy mandates a much greater responsibility from the mother as opposed to the father. There are many "deadbeat dads" that take no responsibility whatsoever and have no contact w/ their children or pay any sort of child support.

      So, you're saying that because a woman is the only one that can become pregnant, she is the only one that has to be concerned w/ birth control (which is NEVER 100%) or to abstain altogether from sex while her male counterpart can continue to fornicate w/ anyone who is willing and able?(especially true in the context of the male athletes)

      I'm not sure if you've read the civil rights but there cannot be discrimination based on "pregnancy" in regards to scholarships, participation in a program, or any other means that a university could require.

      Would you think the same thing if a man wanted to ACTUALLY take responsibility and attempt to invoke the "pregnancy waiver" (as Butler did but was denied) to get an extra yr of eligibility care for his child? Your viewpoint sounds like you're behind the effort to keep the stereotype alive that "babies are a woman's responsibility", I honestly hope that there are not more many like you. Apparently you'd rather punish the female for her sexual acts and applaud the male for his sexual deviancy?

      Unfortunately for you the NCAA has now granted a waiver for pregnant student athletes. They get an additional waiver for one year.

      I understand that men think of having a child like a contract (?don't really know, don't have any kids, but males seem to give that "vibe"?) I don't think women should be treated like garbage and thrown out (even though they did have a "mishap" that they possibly could have prevented) because they became pregnant so now all their hopes of attaining an education or a life in the future are gone.

      (**p.s. i am not a liberal, just very adament about women's rights in "sports"**)

  3. Long enough to know the name of the author of this blog, but didn't feel the need to double check the spelling.

    If your argument is "Pregnancy is 100% preventable. Don't have sex," then by that same reasoning your argument should include:

    1) car accidents (and resulting injuries) are 100% preventable, too. Don't drive a car.

    2) Head injuries from falling off a ladder while painting the house are 100% preventable, too. Don't climb a ladder...hire someone to do it.

    3) A head injury from a line drive to the third base seats is 100% preventable, too. Don't go to watch a live game.

    4) Hitting a snow-covered and hidden wire while driving a snowmobile is 100% preventable, too. Don't drive a snowmobile.

    I could give you hundreds of examples along the same line of reasoning, i.e. 100% preventable.

    But, it's unreasonable to expect adults to avoid living a normal life because they owe their soul to the team.

  4. Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    If your argument is "Pregnancy is 100% preventable. Don't have sex," then by that same reasoning your argument should include:

    Lilith, sorry, but your list is garbage. Sex is a recreational activity. Riding in a car is an often necessary function of, you know, getting somewhere. Furthermore, sex leading to pregnancy is orders of magnitude more likely than, say, getting beaned by a baseball in the stands.

    Besides, all of your examples would likely result in the athlete's scholarship being revoked. You've done nothing to help your argument here and, seemingly, a good bit to counter it.

    Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    I could give you hundreds of examples along the same line of reasoning, i.e. 100% preventable.

    They would, if the list you did give is any indication, all lead to the athlete losing their scholarship. Probably not exactly what you wanted to say…

    Lilith said on May 13, 2007:

    But, it's unreasonable to expect adults to avoid living a normal life because they owe their soul to the team.

    No, it's not. They've pledged four years of their life to the team and they're getting an incredible education in return. The contract - the understanding, the agreement - is broken when the athlete is no longer able to perform athletically at the level that earned them the scholarship.

  5. 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.

    Outside of (at some colleges) football and men's basketball (thanks to the lucrative NCAA contract with CBS), the vast majority of intercollegiate athletics teams do not make money for their institutions. Women's basketball is one of the few sports outside football and women's basketball that does have a national TV contract, and it's relatively tiny. As an example, Duke University has had one of the top women's basketball teams in the country for the last five or so years, and in its most recent report the university reported that it lost around $2.1 million on the program in one year.

    They've pledged four years of their life to the team

    No, they haven't pledged four years. There is no such thing as a guaranteed scholarship -- a school can withdraw a scholarship at any time, for any reason.

  6. Geoff Green said on May 13, 2007:

    the vast majority of intercollegiate athletics teams do not make money for their institutions

    Profit does not necessarily mean "make money for their institutions." Do collegiate athletics not serve as a form of advertising or otherwise make a college more appealing, thus drawing in more potential students?

    Geoff Green said on May 13, 2007:

    No, they haven't pledged four years. There is no such thing as a guaranteed scholarship - a school can withdraw a scholarship at any time, for any reason.

    Then you agree with me, despite posting a comment which is primarily just a nit-pick of specifics. Grand.

  7. I can imagine many young college athletes who, when faced with the choice between terminating their scholarship or terminating their pregnancy, would most likely opt for the latter.

  8. Lilith said on May 14, 2007:

    I can imagine many young college athletes who, when faced with the choice between terminating their scholarship or terminating their pregnancy, would most likely opt for the latter.

    Depending on the laws in their state, that would indeed be a choice they might face. If abortion is not a moral or legal option, again, so be it. They made the choice to engage in sex. This isn't an abortion discussion.

  9. I'm definitely not trying to turn this into an abortion issue. I am merely highlighting the main idea of your argument..."choice." They also made the choice to work hard and sacrifice in order to excel at their sport so that they could receive a scholarship and get a good education to give them a head start in life. When forced to choose, many people feel they don't really have any other choice. We are fortunate that in all 50 states we can still choose what course our lives will take.

  10. Lilith said on May 14, 2007:

    They also made the choice to work hard and sacrifice in order to excel at their sport so that they could receive a scholarship and get a good education to give them a head start in life.

    And by choosing to get pregnant, Lilith, they've chosen to flip the bird at their athletic scholarship and the responsibility they have to the team and the university as an athlete.

    If an athlete gets pregnant and is forced to choose between abortion and their scholarship, by all means I know what I hope they would do, but the simple fact of the matter is that they've broken their understanding, athletically, and that they have a choice to make.

    I'm not saying the scholarship MUST be taken away - I believe schools should show compassion when appropriate and as befits their own policies - but I am saying that if an athlete can't compete at an acceptable level because they choose to get pregnant (as defined in the discussion above), the university has every right - if they choose to exercise it - to revoke the scholarship.

    If you want further discussion, Lilith, please take it offline to email. I don't feel we're gaining much ground here.

  11. Erik:

    Expecting college students not to have sex is not realistic. No matter what you do, you're not going to be able to stop the vast majority of students (whether athletes or not) from having sex. The school should make condoms easily available (most do) and perhaps offer free or low cost hormonal contraception or IUDs to their female students as well, if they're worried about students becoming pregnant. If they fail to do so, but still have this pregnancy rule, then they will be encouraging abortion. Prevention is preferable to abortion, for many reasons which we don't have to rehash here.

    What if the student in question is married? Are you going to ask her to avoid sex for the good of the athletic team in that case? I don't think her husband is going to go for that..

    In any case, I think athletic scholarships are silly. Learning should be the primary focus of students. Tying their scholarships to athletics encourages students to do otherwise.

  12. Tim Buchheim said on May 14, 2007:

    Expecting college students not to have sex is not realistic.

    Some people would say getting a free $200k education in exchange for playing a game is unrealistic, too, but it happens.

    The simple fact remains that sex can lead to pregnancy, and I'm not expecting them not to have sex. I'm expecting them, should a pregnancy arise, to not whine and complain and claim that Title 9 lets them keep their athletic scholarship. Shit happens and you pay the consequence for your choices and bad luck. If they're unable to perform athletically, they should lose the scholarship (unless the school wants to let them keep it). That's life.

    Tim Buchheim said on May 14, 2007:

    If they fail to do so, but still have this pregnancy rule, then they will be encouraging abortion.

    No more so than I could argue they're encouraging abstinence. If I offered you $200k and two million or so extra dollars in lifetime earnings in exchange for four years of penetration abstinence, could you do it? I think it's a pretty fair offer. If they want to try to cheat the odds by having sex with protection (or even unprotected sex), they have to know the odds aren't 100% and they run the risk of getting "caught."

    Tim Buchheim said on May 14, 2007:

    What if the student in question is married? Are you going to ask her to avoid sex for the good of the athletic team in that case? I don't think her husband is going to go for that.

    And how many married 19-year-olds on athletic scholarship do you know, Tim? Be reasonable here - the number of times that situation arises can be counted - per decade, probably - on your available digits.

    And if I were married to one of those four athletes per decade getting a free education and all that, you're darn right "actual" sex could wait - there are other forms of pleasure, after all.

    Tim Buchheim said on May 14, 2007:

    In any case, I think athletic scholarships are silly. Learning should be the primary focus of students. Tying their scholarships to athletics encourages students to do otherwise.

    That's a topic for another day, yes&helllip;

    Current voting, by the way, is 28-12.

  13. What if a female athlete couldn't play because she was having bad menstrual cramps? Should she be required to forfeit a portion of her sholarship? After all she COULD have avoided the menstrual cramps by getting a hysterectomy.

  14. Sean said on May 16, 2007:

    What if a female athlete couldn't play because she was having bad menstrual cramps? Should she be required to forfeit a portion of her sholarship? After all she COULD have avoided the menstrual cramps by getting a hysterectomy.

    At first I was planning to delete this comment because it's so incredibly stupid. Instead, I've decided to let it stand. After all, the only person or argument I feel it damages is Sean himself.

  15. Erik,

    interesting comments- While it is true, a man does not become "pregnant," he participates in the process. What are the consequences for a male athlete who co-creates a pregnancy? This appears to be neglected in this policy dispute. One may argue, "the man is not affected-physically. Hopefully, he is affected, and if he is not, so much the worse the man.

    Personally, I do not agree that a woman ought to have her scholarship revoked. That is my opinion. An opinion based on my experience which I do not have to validate or justify any more than you do yours.

    So many people have unexamined views of sex and the emotions that come along with it- a shortcoming of society. The feelings are powerful and are often manipulated at the interpersonal level as well as in advertising.

    Policy disputes as a result of this "unconsciousness" frequently are outcome oriented (which is good) and they frequently ignore the individual interactions which lead to the results and tend to judge them as "good" or "bad." This may expedite our exchange of views; however, I suggest that a dialog that ignores how our personal interactions develop is largely superficial and political at best.

    An examination of our interactions about sex and emotions in general tends to slow things down when what is often desired is an immediate gratification (much like sex itself). Such a discussion is not based so much on "here is what I think and this is why I am right" ( a predictable stance adopted by politicians and media ) that a discussion of what we can do to expand our awareness of how a differing point of view may be equally valid is often ignored.

    However, should a discussion of this nature decide to germinate here, I am willing to participate.

  16. Erik,
    I realize this is an old question, but I happened upon this discussion and wanted to respond. I agree 100% percent that we should all be responsible for our actions. Getting pregnant is a choice and can be avoided. At the same time, injured male athlete can get a medical red shirt, why can't pregnant athletes do the same? I don't think you should automatically lose your scholarship because you become pregnant. I think colleges make provisions for male athletes all the time, so there is no reason they can't do favors for females athletes also.

  17. I'm pregnant and in college and no I did not choose to be.No I'm not on an atheletic scholarship, but the issue of pregnancy is college is jujst the same.It's ridiculous to ask someone not to have sex. We are humans. We are animals. In reality, the main purpose of our bodies is to reproduce. Society and religion are the reason is the reason we came up with bullshit about adding meaning to our lives.The only meaning to our lives are Sports are pretty pointless too. Sure, they might teach you some values and to be part of a team, but there's no way in hell you're going to make anyone believe a fucking game in more important than someone's life Go ahead, reply with your little messages to make yourself feel better but listen asshole, you aren't And I don't think men have a right to speak on this issue because I'm sorry you won't be having to pee every 15 minutes,splitting your vagina open in labor,breastfeeding all day all while you're trying to write a term paper.It hard enough with the social stigma and financial burden of this, and struggling with all these person concerns as well as having some sexist jackass think he has the right to judge people for it.You can't expect people to have to decide between a life and the bettering of their life through education. Don't try to tell me funding for sports is more important than life. The player can have time off to go have the baby and return when her body is back to normal.Don't think you'll ever get lucky enough to get someone pregnant anyway if you're this much of a jackass in real life. Go fuck yourself.:mrgreen:

  18. I agree with Erik,
    I am a collage student, and a mom. I made a choice to engage in sex, I got pregnant. I am the only one responsible for my action. My kids father did not make the choice for me, I did.
    I was old enough to know how baby's are made, and reasonable enough to know how my life would be affected. I am the one who chose my path.
    If someone wanted to pay my $50,000 a year school fee's to remain in good physical condition or for what ever reason.... I would make damn sure I was only giving oral!
    I commend Erik for putting his beliefs out there. (though not popular) Too many people want to cry unfair, tough shit, make a choice, accept the consequence's!


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