Out of Bounds: NCAA rule hinders DIII athletes

The Geneseo Workout Center is often overcrowded at certain times of the day, but it has gotten significantly worse this year. The reason for this is that out-of-season athletes are now denied access to the varsity athlete athletic weight room due to increased enforcement of an NCAA regulation that classifies off-season access to facilities as an “extra benefit.”

This is problematic for several reasons, the most obvious being that a lot of those athletes are now going to the general-use workout center to train. There are eight varsity men’s and 12 varsity women’s teams at this school. Those athletes use the weight training facilities far more often than the typical Geneseo student does. Without access to their own gym, out-of-season athletes are forced to use the Workout Center with the rest of the student body. This means that a person can wait 45 minutes to use the squat rack if they show up at the wrong time. Meanwhile—depending on the season––the athletic weight room goes under-utilized.

Crowding the Workout Center unnecessarily burdens the whole Geneseo community. There are other downsides to the NCAA’s rule as well. Varsity athletes represent Geneseo when they compete at other schools. By discouraging them from working out in the off-season, the NCAA is limiting what these athletes can accomplish.

This is an important time to support athletes who train out of season. As training increases in sophistication and more attention is paid to details like diet, sleep and strength, the proverbial bar has been raised and it’s becoming harder and harder to do well.

This is as true in Division III college athletics as it is anywhere else. At this year’s NCAA Division III National Championships for Swimming and Diving, Emory University junior Andrew Wilson swam the 100-yard breaststroke in 51.72 seconds—the ninth fastest time ever by an American in short course-yards. The most-cited reason for this unprecedented achievement is that he spent his off-season training doubles with Atlanta’s best club team. You can be sure that he did not slack off on his strength training.

When a college athlete commits to a team, there is an expectation that they will continue to improve over time. How can we make this commitment possible for athletes without compromising either NCAA amateur status or the Division III prescription against year-round training?

The “extra benefits” rule prohibits any arrangement that provides benefits on the basis of athletic ability, except those approved by NCAA legislation. No one wants a backslide into the 1970s when new cars were routinely purchased to recruit top athletes at big universities, but we do have to make some realistic accommodations for the new generation of athletes.

There are already rules in place that allow the college to buy its athletes things such as food and accommodation at away competitions. These rules are in place so that athletes can participate in their sports without operating at a financial deficit. This is the same situation we face by making our out-of-season athletes pay to use the gym. The NCAA needs to pass legislation soon to address that.


Editor’s note: Erik Mebust is a member of the Geneseo men’s swimming and diving team.