UPDATE: The NCAA reversed course Friday, according to a statement from Canisius College, and will allow Scheck to retain her eligibility while receiving GoFundMe donations.
Every time you think the NCAA has finally reached the depths of their depravity, the organization finds another way to sink lower. Earlier this year, the draconian bylaws of the governing body of collegiate sports nearly derailed efforts to provide financial support for the family of a hospitalized football player who was injured during a game, and in 2015, the organization threw the book at a homeless athlete for the crime of being homeless.
Now, an athlete who was disowned and financially cut off by her parents because she is gay is being forced to choose between her sport and her livelihood, after the NCAA caught wind of an effort by her friends to raise money to cover such luxuries as a roof over her head and edible goods.
Ah, the purity of amateurism!
Emily Scheck, a cross-country runner at Canisius College in upstate New York, had to deal with this worst-case scenario when her parents discovered, through social media, that she was dating a woman: She was told to either return home so she could receive dehumanizing, harmful, and ineffective conversion therapy, or stay at school and be cut out of their lives forever, according to a report by Outsports.
Sheck did not want to endure conversion therapy, so her parents quickly disowned her. They cut off all financial support, left her with a huge credit card bill, canceled insurance on her car, and left her with no way to pay for tuition, books, and a meal plan at school (She’s only on a partial athletic scholarship). It was a nightmare.
So, Sheck’s friends decided to step up. Eight days ago, her friend Grace Hausladen set up a GoFundMe to help her out. So far, it has raised over $25,000.
But there’s a catch. According to Outsports, an NCAA compliance officer at Canisius College reached out and told her she had two options: “Return every penny and maintain her NCAA eligibility, or keep the money and leave the cross-country team.”
The school confirmed this to Outsports in a statement:
After a review by the College’s compliance staff, and following consultation with the NCAA, it was determined that the online crowdfunding webpage was organized and promoted in a manner not permitted under NCAA legislation. Canisius informed the student-athletes that it would be necessary to end the online fundraising effort and work with the website host to return the donations received in order to preserve the student-athlete’s eligibility.
Initially, the GoFundMe stopped accepting donations and Sheck and Hausladen waited as officials at Canisius and the NCAA looked for a solution. But three days ago, Hausladen opened up donations on the page again, and announced that both of them were no longer members of Canisius College’s running programs.
“Though running had been a huge part of both of our lives, no longer being part of Canisius teams will not stop us from running and training on our own,” Hausladen said. “This opportunity to help a friend in need has helped her and others to see that there is hope and love when it seems lost.”
Earlier this year, the NCAA ruled that failing to stop decades of sexual abuse of hundreds of student-athletes by a university employee was not a violation of NCAA bylaws. The NCAA has remained silent about Jordan McNair, a University of Maryland football player who died as a result of negligence by university employees.
But at least the NCAA is here to ensure a homeless, impoverished LGBT student-athlete is appropriately disciplined.