The NCAA: An Organization After The Commodore's Own Heart
Last week at the College Baseball World Series (CWS) the NCAA decided to send N.C. State packing. Their decision was announced at 2am EDT on Saturday June 26th. Reason being, the team had eight positive COVID-19 tests, half of which were from players who had indeed been innoculated.
The College World Series is a hallmark of college athletics - the pinnacle of achievement. Having played baseball in college and having been an "extremely mediocre" player at that, in the words of a former college coach, I can't help but get into the June event when it rolls around. I attended the 2006 CWS with my younger brother who, being the opposite of mediocre, went on to play at Division I baseball. The CWS experience is best described as that of highly cerebral, scorekeeping baseball fanatics meeting the excitement of a college football tailgating atmosphere. So when the NCAA decided to toss a team (with a strong chance of competing for the national championship) out of the tournament because of positive COVID-19 tests, it happened to intersect two areas with which I am familiar.
Make no mistake, N.C. State was the hottest team in the CWS. The Wolfpack rolled into Omaha after stunning the number one seed Arkansas, who'd been virtually unbeatable all year, in the Super Regionals. (The Razorbacks didn't lose a series during the season and went undefeated in the SEC Tournament.) As if to prove their upset over Arkansas wasn't a fluke, unseeded N.C. State then steamrolled Stanford (9 seed) and shutout Vandy (4 seed). Then on Friday June 25th, the Wolfpack lost their first CWS matchup to Vanderbilt. The caveat: N.C. State was without half their players. With only 13 players, a pitcher was forced to play first base. Still, they game the powerhouse Commodores a run for their money before losing three runs to one.
Apparently after one or two positive tests, the NCAA required all non-vaxxed players to be tested. All of whom it appears tested negative. Even though they returned to the stadium in time for the game, those negative testers were not allowed to enter. Shortly thereafter, it has been reported, the NCAA decided to test N.C. State's vaccinated players. Four tested positive. It should go without saying, this is absurd given it sets a precedent that vaccinated players should be tested when even the CDCs guidelines say otherwise. Further, there has been talk of some expectation that vaccinated players should test negative when this has never been the case, particularly given the vaccine is itself a carefully administered dose of the virus and its antibodies.
In testing vaccinated players on one team, naturally the NCAA should test vaccinated players on all teams---a self-defeating purpose. If they were to test every player, vaxxed or not, on every team, the odds are virtually zero that they'd find not a single case. But let's assume for a moment they did and there were no other cases. In such a situation, then the logic of the NCAA's actions becomes even more egregious; for then the NCAA would have to acknowledge that, after a week of play and intermingling, N.C. State's "breakout" hadn't effected a single positive test for the other teams.
The asininity of basing their decision, in part or in whole, on vaccinated players testing positive having been established, the NCAA could have easily taken multiple different and more justifiable routes. The simple and reasonable solution should have been obvious - quarantine or send home the unvaccinated positive testers.
While the vitriol towards Vanderbilt is unfounded, one would have to be blind (or ignorant about baseball) to not see the sizable advantage this gave the Commodores. Not only did Vandy avoid facing the hottest team in college baseball, gaining an extra day of rest in the process; they also saved their ace Jack Leiter, son of former MLB all-star Al Leiter, for Game 1 of the CWS finals against Mississippi State. (Vandy won 8-2.)
The NCAA's indefensible decision to hastily and arbitrarily eliminate N.C. State, regardless of their protocols, smacks of the old Commodore's mob-like mentality. No argument or reasoning or alternate party may have a say in their opaquely dominated domain. There has been little if any real push back from mainstream media-types who serve at the behest of the NCAA. It's no leap to intuit who determines their seats at the table of college athletics. After being labeled a modern monopoly just a few days ago by the Supreme Court of the United States, one legal scholar says now the only thing to show is "anticompetitive intent" (i.e., an alternative authority or reasonable and timely remedy to their omnipotent power). With the N.C. State debacle, the NCAA has solidified that there are no other remedies and, in so doing, have displayed a tone-deafness to reason. Either that or a statement: "We are the gods of college sports."