Keeping the playing field level and fair in sports can be a challenge – especially when there are gray areas, such as the line between amateurism and professionalism.
Recently, the USF men’s tennis team had to cut Dirk Britzen because he played for a professional club when he lived in his native Germany. According to NCAA statutes, having the professional status is the issue. Accepting money for playing in other tournaments is acceptable, as long as the prize amount does not exceed expenses incurred.
Many believe that the rules regarding athlete status are in need of reform, but talks of this do little for players who become caught up in this confusion.
“I think they need to do a real study on what’s fair and what is a professional,” men’s tennis coach Don Barr said in Wednesday’s Oracle.
Athletic Director Doug Woolard is on an NCAA committee developing a system that would do better in determining if an athlete is indeed an amateur.
In Wednesday’s Oracle, Tony Marquis reported that “according to Woolard, applicants would have to fill out a survey with questions such as: ‘Did you play on a professional team?’ ‘Did you accept money?’ or ‘Did you sign a contract?’ From there the survey would go to the NCAA staff, which would make a ruling on the individual.”
Though the rules surrounding what constitutes an amateur or professional are in the process of clarification, cutting these players from the team is justified. Spots on college teams should be designated for skilled amateur athletes who have no professional experience whatsoever. It gives teams that have a great amount of formerly professional players an unfair advantage against teams that are comprised of strictly amateurs.
According to the NCAA, just one-fourth of men’s and one-fifth of women’s collegiate tennis players are international, but more than half of the participants in last year’s NCAA men’s and women’s individual championship tournament were international. Of the top 10 players in both the men’s and women’s rankings, seven men and six women are international.
It’s clear that a small percentage of players with professional experience are making an impact on the amateur tennis world.
Professional athletes cannot downplay their skills by going back to amateur ranks. If they have left the sport as a professional and miss participating in their particular sport, playing with an intramural league is the best – and most ethical – option.