Thursday, September 17, 2009

My experience in Indianapolis at the NCAA and USATF

In case you didn't know the headquarters of the NCAA and USA Track and Field (USATF) are about a mile apart on washington street in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. My hotel was more or less in the middle of the two. While I was running Sunday and Monday I found the NCAA because it is in a rather obvious place. We had Tuesday afternoon off at the conference so I put on normal clothes and walked over to the NCAA Hall of Champions and NCAA headquarters. I looked around the museum which was fairly interesting and quite modern. They had interactive stations for each sport with mostly recent pictures and videos but I managed to find a video of Shalane Flanagan when she was still in college. The displays had storries on them about athletes that had over come stuff and one was about a boy from Sudan I think that had fled war and made it to the US and Wheaton College (MA) where he had received a scholarship for running. Division three doesn't give athletic scholarships and you would think they know that at the NCAA Hall of Champions but I guess not.

I walked next door to the main offices and the security guy asked if I needed any help. I said I was just looking around and he said with a big smile, "You can look around in the lobby all you want but you can't go any farther." I explained who I was and everything with the hope that maybe he would provide me an opening to ask to talk to some D3 or track and field person about getting a 3000 at indoor nationals like D1 has. It was a no go I was not getting past his desk. So much for the NCAA being an open book.

Then I walked over the USATF offices. They are not at all marked from the street level so I walked into the number building they were supposed to do and chatted it up with the security guy and I explained that I was in town for a conference and I was wondering about the next olympic marathon trials and he had been a runner as well. So he rode the elevator up with me to their offices. Their tiny offices are on the same floor as some swimming organization and something else I think. I walked in and talked to the receptionist who was pushing 70 years old. I asked if USATF had picked a location or a date for the next olympic marathon trials. I was hoping that she would say 'oh I don't know but so and so is in charge of that would you like to ask him?' Then some guy would have been like 'first weekend in march 2012 and either place one or place two.' Instead I'm pretty sure she just looked it up on the website. Then she asked if I had access to the internet. I haven't been asked that in awhile. She recommended that I just check the internet every so often and eventually it will be updated.

Moral of the story: I am at the bottom of the totem pole. The NCAA is not overly concerned with D3 and the USATF is concerned with getting people to world championships and olympics. When we fill out paperwork to determine our eligibility we are not allowed to win more money in a race than we spend on the race. The problem is that none of my friends get athletic scholarships unlike other divisions and most have of tens of thousands of dollars of debt. What is $100 going to hurt? I go through a pair of $85 shoes every five or six weeks. Do D1 runners pay for their own shoes?

I am not saying it is unfair because this is the route I chose and had I tired a different route chances are I would not be interested in competitive running like I am now. What I am saying is let us keep what little we win because it doesn't compare to a full athletic scholarship and give us a chance to run the same races that D1 runners run like the 3000 at indoor nationals and the 10k in cross country. Please don't discriminate against us because we don't get scholarships or don't run as fast. The reality is that we don't care what you do to us. We love to run and race and we are in this for the long haul. College is the beginning of our running careers. In a way getting paid to do this would spoil the innocence, freedom, and relaxation that we get from running.

If there is pressure on me, let it be my own.

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