With only one week to go until the start of the college football season, the nation is paying close attention to Ohio State University and the University of Maryland to see what actions will be taken to address off-season controversies that plagued the universities’ respective football programs.
As allegations of domestic abuse swirl around Ohio State, and the University of Maryland’s pitch remains marked by the untimely death of a young player in his prime, college athletes from NYU’s various teams reflect on the news, feeling affected though the pressure points dwell far from campus.
“The events at [OSU] and Maryland are disgraceful and heartbreaking, respectively,” CAS junior and member of the NYU Women’s Soccer team Alex Benedict said. “Both cases show that some college coaches are doing whatever it takes to win at all costs, oftentimes at the expense of ethics, and in the case of Maryland player Jordan McNair, at the expense of their own players.”
The controversies at OSU revolve around Zach Smith, the wide receiver coach who was fired in July after his wife Courtney Smith accused him of domestic violence. Making matters worse, it was revealed that Head Coach Urban Meyer was aware of the abuse and has been put on paid leave while an investigation is conducted. Adding to the abuse allegations, Smith is also under scrutiny for allegedly taking lewd photos at the White House when the Buckeyes were honored for winning the 2014 National Championship. Furthermore, Brett McMurphy reported that Smith allegedly ordered thousands of dollars worth of sex toys to his OSU office and had sex with OSU staffers in 2015.
As the investigation moves forward at OSU, loss aches through the University of Maryland’s campus as the community mourns the death of student athlete Jordan McNair. The offensive lineman died of heatstroke during an outdoor practice in May that reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. According to preliminary results of an independent investigation, members of the training staff made mistakes in providing the proper medical treatment that led to the 19-year-old’s death two weeks later. In response to the investigation, the university placed Head Coach D.J. Durkin and members of the Athletic Staff on administrative leave.
“It’s really unacceptable that in collegiate sports there continue to be stories where the success of the team is put above humanitarian and athlete welfare,” CAS junior Evan Lindley, a player on the NYU Varsity Volleyball Team, said. Lindley grew up watching college football — his favorite sport to watch — and is greatly saddened by these “horror stories.”
“These are unpaid student athletes that spend more hours on the field in season than they do worrying about school,” he said. “Their coaches expect so much out of them, commitment to their team and the culture that they have built. Well, if that culture is built upon covering sexual assault or beating your players into a stroke, then I don’t know who would ever want to be a part of that.”
When asked whether he believes NYU properly promotes the physical well-being of student athletes, Stern senior and swimming captain Nick Dionisopoulos expressed the belief that the university makes student athletes’ health a
“During my three years as an NYU varsity student athlete, I firmly believe that our university has the proper resources to handle issues regarding physical fatigue or injury,” Dionisopoulos told WSN. “Prior to each season, student athletes are educated about what to look for in the case of serious physical injury.”
Additionally, NYU Athletics employs a staff of four full-time and three part-time athletic trainers who work under Supervising Physician Dr. Dennis Cardone to provide medical care to over 850 student athletes across all varsity and club sports.
“The coaches take these issues seriously,” Dionisopoulos said.
Benedict agreed: “These events have made me realize how lucky my team and I are to have staff who care about our well-being both as athletes and as people,” she said. “I’m going into this season grateful and ready to work hard for the people who work tirelessly to make my experience the best it can be.”
Across the board, the NYU student athletes seem to agree that they could never envision anything like what happened at OSU or the University of Maryland making its way to their turf.
“I think NYU is incomparable to these two universities,” Lindley said, largely because it is a Division III school. “At NYU, if any coach acted in the way that Urban Meyer did, or that the Maryland coaching staff did, the athletes would either quit or go on strike until the coaches were fired. It sounds very entitled, but I think many student athletes at NYU know that being associated with team tragedies like these is not worth it.”
A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 26 print edition. Email Mahmoud Mohamed [email protected]