University of Nebraska-Omaha pentathlete Sami Spenner is one of the brightest track stars in the nation. She’s been posting some of the best pentathlon scores in the country over the past few seasons, but she hasn’t been allowed to compete for a Division I national title despite her school being a Division I program.
Why? Because the NCAA, that’s why.
Spenner explained her situation in an article she wrote for Track & Field News. Basically, UNO was a Division II school when Spenner transferred there after playing volleyball for Wayne State College in the fall of 2009. Upon discovering she had a knack for track and field, Spenner began to compete in the pentathlon and the heptathlon, placing 5th in the latter at the Division II National Championships in 2011.
The problems began when UNO moved up to the Division I ranks:
Since 2012 I have been kept out of the NCAA national track & field championships due to my school transitioning from Division II to Division I, rendering the school ineligible for post-season competition for 4 years. This year being our third year transitioning, and me being a 5th year senior, I would graduate before my school is eligible for post season competition.
(Oh, in case you’re wondering just how good Spenner is, she had the second highest pentathlon score in Division I last year and just a few weeks ago posted a score (4406) that is the third highest in the world in 2014.)
Spenner said she could have transferred again, going to a school already established as a Division I program. However, that solution, the one the NCAA would likely propose to another athlete facing a similar dilemma, is idiotic:
I had the option to transfer schools, but I would leave the coach that made me, leave my teammates who are my best friends, and on top of that I would be transferring schools because of athletics, putting my academics second. UNO had the degree I wanted, and I wasn’t about to throw away those credit hours.
I earned a full-ride scholarship, which didn’t guarantee I was going to get another full ride at another Division I school. Logistically speaking, it would have been idiotic for me to transfer to another school, JUST so I could go to Nationals.
They want me to be a STUDENT-ATHLETE, but their solution to my problem is to transfer schools and put my ATHLETICS before my ACADEMICS. That completely goes against what they are trying to do for us student-athletes.
Three cheers for bureaucracy and hypocrisy, everyone!
[Source: Track & Field News]