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The Enforcer

Told through the experiences of a true student-athlete, an in-depth story of

the parallel between N.C.A.A. Division III and Division I basketball.

Andrew Wuebker
JOUR 370 - News II: Advanced Journalism
December 9, 2016


BRISTOL, R.I. __ Clapping can be heard from across the hallway. There is no rhythm or
pattern to it. The clapping comes and goes like wind on a Fall day in chilly November,
with its sole purpose serving to psych up the inner being and get the juices flowing. A
group of mostly abnormally tall guys cladding royal blue and golden warm-up shirts
over sleeveless white jerseys with the word HAWKS labeled across their chests and
matching knee-high shorts take full responsibility for this senseless, yet also purposeful

Mere feet away from Roger Williams Universitys main gymnasium, the mens
basketball team huddles together on a dank staircase breaching from the locker room
downstairs, ready to storm their home floor for a Sunday afternoon matinee with the
Camels of Connecticut College. The time is 3:35 p.m., tip-off less than 25 minutes away.

Inside the gym, students, children, middle-aged adults and elderly men and women
blotch the stands, awaiting the bout in anticipation. It is still early, but the 11 rows of
royal blue and golden bleachers on both sides of the gym are nowhere near full capacity,
giving the court an ominous and depressing feel that is unusual to most basketball

Fluorescent lights reflect off the polished hardwood floor in streams toward the arching
ceiling, painted completely white with a maze of rafters, pipes and support beams
constructed every which way. On the upper half of the gyms entrance walls hang golden
banners over white paint, commemorating the names of student-athletes from various
sports of years passed. On the exiting side walls the same is true, but tribute the title
team years of Roger Williams University sports.

Behind the backboards on both ends of the court are a pair of matching blue electronic
scoreboards, attached high on the banner-covered walls with an orange highlighted
countdown. The clock ticks away: 22:46 22:45 22:44.

The Hawks come in running.

One by one like a pack of dogs set loose, the Hawks blast through the gymnasium doors
to the booming lyrics of a Meek Mills track dubbed Litty. The angry lyrics are
accompanied by cheers from the crowd as the once ominous gymnasium has
temporarily come to life.

At the tail end of the 15-player pack running onto the court is Josh Syska. His internal
intensity is on the rise. With pursed lips and clenched fists hes the last guy running
through the gymnasium doors, but the first to jump into battle and represents what a
basketball student-athlete is all about.

Josh is one of over 14,000 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III men and
womens basketball players across the nation and one of 35,000 overall in Divisions I
through III. The Division III game doesnt offer the glitz and glamour of national
television, full-ride scholarships or a ticket to pro hoop dreams that usually comes with
Division I basketball. Similarities between the two are difficult to find, but not
impossible. Dripping sweat, bumps and bruises are certain. Time demands are absolute.
What is truly undeniable is the dedication it takes. In the classroom for the Division III
athleteit is even greater. For a Division III student-athlete like Josh, something to call
a team and lead it is the ultimate reward.

Boasting a towering 6-foot-5 frame and brawny physique, light skin, short brown hair, a
tattoo with the Roman numeral VIII on his right bicep and a cleanly trimmed beard,
the 22-year-old senior captain runs in his white high-top 2016 Nike Hyperdunk
sneakers and a blue and gold warm-up shirt over his jersey to the layup lines on the far
right side of the gymnasium with his teammates.

With the scoreboard reading 21:10 to go until game time, the Hawks opposition files
into the near side of the gymnasium. Fifteen young men sporting sleeveless navy blue
jerseys with CONNECTICUT COLLEGE plastered across their chests and matching
knee-high shorts make their presence known with high-flying dunks and fancy layup

After two minutes of layup lines the Hawks disperse. Josh goes off toward center court
with teammate Conor OBrien, a lanky, pale-skinned junior standing at 6-foot-6, and
dribbles a basketball back and forth across the court with OBrien pressuring him. Once
his routine is complete, Josh hands OBrien the ball and the ritual is mimicked. With
piercing eyes and active hands, Josh defends against OBriens dribble, forcing him from
one line to the other. A few short seconds later, the drill stops and the duo progresses to
the next. Standing a few feet apart near center court, the pair take a ball and pass it
overhead to one another, whipping it back and forth as they increase the distance
between them.

The pump-up track changes. This time it is Travis Scotts way back as it echoes across
the gymnasium.

As the scoreboard clock ticks down and the pump-up tracks continue to change, every
second provides a competitive edge over their competition. Every made basket in
warm-ups a confidence booster. Every second running around a chance to get loose and
ease any lingering tension. The bleachers arent nearly as full they should be, but the
players remain carefree.

With five minutes to go on the ticking scoreboard clock, the buzzer sounds, the angry
pump-up tracks stop and warm-up activities for both teams cease. The Hawks gather in
an imperfect circle under the far right basket of the gymnasium, raise their fists high
and together yell Hawks in unison, then slowly make their way to the team bench on
the near side of the gym.

Next, a deep-voice comes booming over the gyms speakers and welcomes the games
attendees with dramatic effect.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Roger Williams University!

With less dramatics, the P.A. announcer introduces the five-man starting lineup for the
Camels of Connecticut College, then on cue brings the booming voice back for the
Hawks starting lineup. The Hawks not introduced form two lines in front of the team
bench and the starting five sits until their name is called.

The first Hawk introduced, sophomore guard Austin Coene, has deadly sharp-shooting
skills from long range. Coene is followed by OBrien, then the Hawks floor general Nick
Marini. Marini, a junior, commands the floor like a symphony orchestra, is quick to the
bucket and dishes the ball well to teammates in open space. The fourth guy introduced,
another guard named Andrew Wasik, also provides shooting touch from the outside and
ball handling expertise. Finally, on the far right side of the bench, Josh is seated and
awaits his turnhis internal intensity still on the rise.

And a senior forward from Peabody, Mass.! Number three, Josh Syskaaaa!

Josh runs through the lane formed by his teammates while greeted with slapping hands
of support and cheers from the crowd in admiration.

Under the hoop on the near side of the gym in front of the Hawks bench, the players
gather together after introductions and form a circle. Locking arms around each other's

shoulders and bent at the waist, Jaylen Jennings isnt a part of the Hawks circles
exterior, but leading it from within.

The 6-foot-4, dark-skinned, muscular junior is dancing in the circles epicenter, riling up
his teammates before the on-court melee begins. As he continues dancing, the teams
circle begins to move, swaying and rocking side to side in complete sync as the teams
rallying cry becomes louder and louder.

Ahh! Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!

The circle breaks and both teams take position at center court, finally ready to showcase
a dazzling Fall day display of college basketball.

The head official stands at center court, holding the ball high in the palm of his right
hand. OBrien takes position on the left side of the midcourt circle with bent knees and
ready to pounce, while a CC player takes the opposite side. The scoreboard reads 20:00,
ready to count down. The crowd is settled in. Josh is to OBriens left, Marini to his right,
Coene right behind him and Wasik directly ahead. The referee tosses the ball straight

into the air and both players jump, trying to reach the apex of the balls height. OBrien
taps the ball with his right hand into the far side of the court and Wasik jumps forward
and clutches the ball with both hands as hes immediately swarmed by two blue jerseys,
but holds on.

Roger Williams takes possession.

Wasik immediately passes to Marini to get the Hawks into their offense. The Hawks
spread out while CC guards them man to man. A couple of quick passes around the
3-point line from Marini to Josh, then to Wasik spreads out the defense. OBrien clears
out space in the post as his defender is smothered onto his back. Wasik attempts to feed
OBrien inside, but the pass is just out of OBriens reach as it tips off the fingers of his
right hand, forcing RWU into a quick turnover with CC heading the other way toward
the near side of the court.

The Hawks stop the Camels from advancing the ball any further in transition, but the
Camels move the ball around and finds its way to an open man from mid-range on the
left side of the free throw line. Josh runs out to the open guy with his right hand
reaching to contest the shot, but cant make it in time. Swish.

Josh walks behind the baseline after the made shot and passes the ball inbounds to
Marini for the next possession. Marini dribbles the ball upcourt and passes to a trailing
Josh at the top of key. Josh looks to his right and makes a quick pass to Coene on the
right side of the 3-point line. On the opposite side, Wasik runs up top and receives a
pass from Coene while Josh dives down low to set a screen on Coenes man to get him
open. Wasik makes a pass to his left to Marini, who looks for OBrien down low near the
rim, but is being denied. Marini sets his eyes on Josh and makes an overhead pass to
him just inside the free throw line. Josh passes it back to Marini, takes the pass and
drives to the bucket on two dribbles with his left hand. The defense closes in and Marini
cant get a shot off. OBrien flashes high to the 3-point line to take Marinis pass and
finds Josh in the middle whos defender is a step behind him. With no hesitation, Josh
sets his feet and jumps, firing a shot off the fingertips of his right hand and lets the ball
fly high above his head. Splash.

Connecticut College inbounds the ball and heads back the other way to try for a score.
The clock is ticking away and the Camels make a quick pass to the left wing for a quick
3-point jumper, but Josh is there this time for the contest. The shot catches iron, hitting
the back of the rim, but the Hawks dont secure the miss as the Camels retain possession
of ball and the shot clock resets to 30 seconds.

The ball is fed inside to a man in the post with Josh defending him. He drops his
shoulder into Joshs chest and takes a couple dribbles backing him down, but Josh
doesnt give any ground. An official blows the whistle and a traveling violation is called.
Hawks ball.

Josh inbounds the ball to Marini who dribbles upcourt for their third possession. Josh
walks up the right side of the court and takes Marinis pass. Josh passes to OBrien
whos cut to the top of the 3-point line and Josh sets a screen on Coenes defender for a
chance to get open once again. Coene makes his way around Joshs body and catches a
pass from OBrien in tight space. Syska then clears out space for Coene to drive as he
rips his dribble through and past his defender for a banking shot off the glass for two.

As the game drags on, both teams do their best to out-strategize, outhustle and outscore
their opponent to the best of their teams abilities. The Hawks maintain a steady lead
through swift ball movement, taking high percentage shots and a commitment to the
defensive end with Josh leading the way. However, RWU struggles to create any
separation from their adversaries in the score, creating a sizeable lead no bigger than
nine points, but evaporates to as little as three as the first half comes to a near close with
25 seconds to go.

Josh inbounds the ball to Marini once again and the clock begins to tick away with the
scoreboard reading 36-33. Marini sizes up his defender with his dribble for a moment
and attempts a crossover move to get past his defender for one final Hawk possession.
He doesnt bite. Mere feet ahead of Marinis defender, Josh sets a screen for Marini to
help him advance the ball upcourt. As Marini tries to run his defender into Joshs
screen, the defender sees it coming, but barely. He avoids the full brunt force of Joshs
physique, but still takes a hard hit as Marini is freed from the pressure of his defender
for a moment, but the officials whistle blows for a foul on Josh. And Josh knows it.

Disgusted with the foul he just committed with the game so close, Josh falls to his knees
at the free throw line on the near side of the court, then slaps his hands down on the
hardwood simultaneously in frustration.

Josh is subbed out for Jennings as the Camels inbound the ball and wind the clock down
for one final shot. The ball handler for the Camels pulls up for a 3-point jumper on the
left side and catches the back of the rim. Coene soars for the rebound and clutches it
with both hands, getting fouled as he comes tumbling down to the floor with 1.5 seconds

Coene steps up to the free throw line and makes his first attempt, but misses the second.
A Camels player then takes the miss and launches the ball into the near side of the gym
as the buzzer sounds and the clock reads double zeros, signaling the first half is at its
end. Both teams head into their locker-rooms with the Hawks in the lead, but the home
crowd has noticeably died down. Silence now being the predominant feel across the gym
once again.

The Enforcer

On a team, every player on the roster is assigned to a role and must execute that role to
the best of their ability in order to achieve the teams ultimate objective. In Josh Syskas
case, he does this better than anybody.

Throughout his four years in a Hawks uniform as a Division III student-athlete, Josh
has emerged as the pillar of leadership the program needed to formulate a winning
culture and takes profound pride in it. He is the walking representation of the word
intensity and never sees the need to apologize for it, especially when it comes to
guiding his teammates.

I don't think there's one kid on the team who's afraid to come up to me and ask me
anything and vice versa, Josh said. I don't think I'm afraid to go up to a single person
on the team and give them some criticism."

For Joshs teammates, hes the unprecedented role model the team looks up to and seek
advice from on topics outside of basketball.

Josh has been like family ever since coming into the program, said Marini. The first
week of school here as a freshman he talked to the other freshmen and I on the team
and let us know if there was anything we needed to let him know and that he was there
to make the transition as easy as possible for us. Josh has been like a big brother to me
and a role model, I have nothing but high praise for him.

Im very close with Josh, said Jake LeProvosot, a senior on the team and also Joshs
roommate. Weve lived together for the past two years and hes one of my closest
friends here at RWU. We have a good relationship on and off the court and I feel that we
always speak our minds to each other, which is good as captains.

As far as how Josh shows his leadership on the court, his play speaks volumes. The dude
is tough as nails. A mercenary that plays with his heart on his sleeves. At times he
pounds his chest, locks elbows with teammates and hollers like a man possessed. His
importance to the team within his overall role is impeccable, doing the little things that
dont stick out on the stat sheet a.k.a. the dirty work whether it be setting screens,
taking charges, altering shots or being the defensive anchor.

Inside the team locker room, a whiteboard on the wall reads 64 at Joshs expense. The
meaning? Any time that number is exceeded by one of the Hawks opponents on the
scoreboard, Josh goes as far as making his teammates do the corresponding amount of
pushups in practice. Josh is what RWU assistant coach Dan Weidmann calls the best
leader hes seen in basketball.

Over all these years, what he's proven over the last four months I think he is, has just,
been the best example I could ever give to be a captain, Weidmann said. Just the
leader of a team. Syska brings a certain level of dedication, of commitment, of respect, of
work ethic and a will to be great that I don't think many kids could ever match. And
Syska had to work his way to where he is and I think that's the best thing about Syska is
that he didn't come in as a tremendous leader. Syska had to go through his own path to
get to where he is as a person and as a player and as a leader and I think we are seeing
this year all of those experiences, all of those hardships, all those individual whatever
you wanna call 'em individual demons or whatever, I think we're seeing the result of
someone who has just truly bought into the process of becoming great.

Josh went through his fair share of growing pains early in his Hawks career to become
the player he is now. Weidmann pointed to times when Josh would yell at referees,
teammates, get frustrated when hed miss a shot and was told not to shoot as often by
his coaches. In one game last season, Joshs emotions boiled over in an ugly turn.

"I got a scar here on my hand that's from actually last season, he said. I had to get five
stitches there. I kind of let my emotions get away from me after the Eastern Nazarene
game at home last year where they beat us on a buzzer beater and it was personal to me
because I had never beaten that team and I really had some beef with a kid on that team.
So, after he was the one who hit the buzzer beater I came down to the locker room,
punched a locker and split my hand right open. So, I definitely let the emotions get the
best of me right there and I know now looking back on it it's not what a leader should
have done, but people only learn from their mistakes."

Now as a senior, Josh embraces the challenge of leading his teammates.

I love being a leader, he said. I love having a team to be honest. Everything behind
basketball revolves around a team and it's not a big team like a football team or lacrosse
team, but it's a team with like 15 guys and the bonding that we share just gets a lot more
close than I feel a bigger team would.

In Joshs junior year, he was unanimously elected captain by his teammates. A rare feat
for a third-year player, but shows just how much his teammates have rallied behind

Syska never walked around here like he was the top guy, like he was the boss, like he
was the leader, said Weidmann. I think his teammates gravitated to him and I think he
took that and ran with it and I think it's helped him be who he is. But what Syska has
and what makes him the best leader, is that he has the ability to hold his teammates
accountable and I think that that's a trait that is the hardest to find in any leader, any
captain, any boss, any manager.

Most people, most leaders, wanna be light. Syska doesn't care if you like him. Syska
doesn't care if you fear him. Syska doesn't care if you love him. He is going to hold you
accountable and he's going to push you and he's going to be the example of the level of
commitment needed to be successful.

As far as being a student-athlete off the court goes, Josh considers himself one man
amongst a crowd. Spending time with his girlfriend, friends, finishing classes for a
degree in Business Administration and living what remains of his collegiate days like
most college students would. But Joshs voice is heard loudest in the gym. He knows he
isnt on track to become a NBA superstar, but as a student-athlete takes tremendous
pride in the culture hes built from the ground up and being a member of a Division III
program, despite the displeasure hes sometimes received from others.

He blocks out the noise and lends his voice to his teammates, making it a collective one.
On a daily basis, Josh says the mindset still needs to be all there, while the dedication
is the same.

Josh may represent everything the National Collegiate Athletic Association outlines as a
true student-athlete albeit at the Division III level for collegiate basketball however,
two levels higher, many student-athletes dont receive that same respect.


This is a story about basketball. It is also a story about the N.C.A.A. It is more of a story
about the latter than the former, but the formers story when heard is usually heartless
and gut-wrenching because it is so often praised. To simplify this essay, the majority of
accounts presented involve the unraveling of collegiate basketball players at the Division
I level.

To most, it may be no secret that the N.C.A.A. is perceived a tyrannical and ruthless
organization that puts the interests of its student-athletes dead last. To others, it may
come as a surprise. Thousands of teenagers every year accept scholarships to chase
dreams of fame and fortune, but at the price of absolute submission to the whims of an
organization where the cutthroat treatment of the student-athlete is all but guaranteed.

On the surface, the N.C.A.A. boasts a pretty name and tagline: The National Collegiate
Athletic Association is a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and
lifelong success of college athletes. Although, if it were true, the N.C.A.A. wouldnt be
such a cash cow, bringing in almost $1 billion annually. T.V. networks, coaches, schools,
member conferences and apparel companies profit from the exploitation of
hard-working physical labor while athletes dont get a dime.

For years, an ongoing debate of whether the student-athlete is actually an employee

persists. Today it is called amateurism. Paid or not? It is a fair debate and one thats met
with adoration, criticism not withholding. Athletes pro and collegiate raise their
voices to the occasion calling for change and reformation, but are sparingly heard.
Lawmakers and legislators claim they have their hands tied and hesitate to intervene.

The term student-athlete to the N.C.A.A. is glorified. They, the athlete, represents a
role-model to the student bodies of their enrolled universities, to the N.C.A.A. an
indentured servant fit to do only their bidding. The student-athlete abides to insane
time demands for team activities; including practices, workouts, team meals, travel and
media requirements. Most Division I programs cap at 20 hours per week of required
athletic activities, all the while balancing a full load of classes and a social life.

Under the righteous N.C.A.A., no student-athlete is safe from the wrath of their
transgressional hammer that hits its student-athletes and their schools harder the
painful bruises of their respective sport. Many of the N.C.A.A.s athletes and teams live

in fear of accidentally overstepping some invisible boundary only the N.C.A.A. can see.
Boundaries are outlined in a book 400 pages long and rude-awakenings arent
uncommon. N.C.A.A. sanctions barr a heap of things for the student-athlete. They
cannot get a job, cannot accept money from anybody in any sort of fashion, cannot profit
from their name, cannot accept gifts and cannot unionize.

The theme is everpresent.

Anyone to cross that line is subject to athletic suspension or expulsion. Teams to cross it
even worse; banned from postseason play and victories entire athletic seasons,
championships taken away.

In return, the N.C.A.A. promises the student-athlete exposure and the thrill of playing
intercollegiate athletics. They are given a scholarship and free education, but many of
these student-athletes arent getting that education, rather they never get the chance to.
The N.C.A.A. stresses fervently the importance of its student-athletes graduating with a
degree of some sort, but their rules on academic eligibility and level of enforcement have
changed substantially over time. On many occasions the N.C.A.A. usually overlooks
those requirements to have their top athletes participate in games at any cost, all in the
name of making a buck.

While it is true the intentions and goals among some student-athletes may differ, some
student-athletes do enroll primarily for academics rather than athletics. Others are
capable of playing professionally down the line, but many still perceive it as an unfair
deal. What about the overwhelming majority who never turn pro? The ones who get
injured and drop out because their scholarships get revoked? The ones who will neither
graduate nor go pro? It is a light the N.C.A.A. too often doesnt want to be seen in.

The N.C.A.A. claims it is a non-profit organization, but enriches its member schools off
the blood and sweat of almost 460,000 athletes. Over 10,600 of them are Division I
mens and womens basketball players. Earlier in this section, it was said the majority of
accounts presented in this story would focus on Division I college basketball players.
The importance of basketball players to the N.C.A.A. is as big as the money trail they
leave, with N.C.A.A. basketball bringing in 90 percent of their annual revenue, or $900

As described by one person: the N.C.A.A.s basic denial of human rights is a violation of
American values and American justice. Student-athletes are reeling from the callous

treatment methods of the N.C.A.A. And whats to be done to resolve it is murkier than
the student-athlete can see.

Poetry in Motion & the Big Dance

The game of basketball has seized the attention of the nation since its creation by Dr.
James Naismith in a Springfield, Mass. YMCA gymnasium 125 years ago. Naismith
composed the idea of basket ball in 1891 as a means to keep his gym class boys in
shape during the harsh winter months of New England. His intention? To create a game
that was fun and engaging, but not too rough. With a set of 13 rules, two peach baskets
and a soccer ball, Naismiths game found instant popularity among his class and
eventually a spot in modern-day sports.

In its finest form, basketball is a simple game. In its ugliest? Perhaps haphazard.
Basketball hasnt changed considerably since its birth years, besides the evolution of the
ball itself, the additions of dribbling, the modern backboard and its hundreds of
modifications to the original 13 rules. The ultimate concept has always stayed the same:
put the ball in the hoop. The ball is always the centerpiece of a complex web of 10
players, each of whom reacts in relation to the ball. On defense, players move their feet
side to side holding outstretched arms and hands. Defenders yell, shout and wave
signals to teammates to know the balls whereabouts at all times. On offense, the ball
can do anything a player wishes if theyre creative enough. The ball can move carefree
usually airborne with a pass from the chest or a bounce off the ground with one or
both hands. From one player to the next in set pieces or plays, the ball moves; similar to
the role of a dancer in a choreographed routine. Winning a championship is what moves
a good team. Although, however great an individual, a team wins the N.C.A.A.
championshipthe ultimate prize of Division I college basketball.

But it begs the questions, how did basketball come onto the collegiate scene and what is
the N.C.A.A. championship?

When Naismiths gym class kids took his basketball teachings nationwide, basketball
found its standing through the outlets of the YMCA and higher education. A February
1895 game between Hamline University and the Minnesota State School of Agriculture
in Saint Paul, Minn. marked the first ever recorded basketball game between
universities. Leagues, or conferences, soon formed among higher education institutions
nationwide, initially by Ivy League schools Cornell, Harvard, Princeton and Yale;
completing the integration of basketball into United States colleges while the birth of the
N.C.A.A. tournament followed soon after.

Taking the N.C.A.A. tournaments title is the unblemished final objective for Division I
mens college basketball teams. In 1938, the National Invitational Tournament was born
when a group of New York sports writers from the Metropolitan Basketball Writers
Association conceived the concept of a national college basketball champion. Composing
of six teams, the NIT hosted at New Yorks Madison Square Garden was a huge success
with Temple University taking the national title. Seeing the NIT garner much success,
the N.C.A.A. formed a tournament of their own the following year with a group of eight

Teams wanting the national media attention of Madison Square Garden elected to play
in the NIT rather than the N.C.A.A. tournament at first. In an effort to improve their
credibility, the N.C.A.A. moved its tourney to Madison Square Garden in 1943. The
conference structure at the time had vast differences in power, so while the NIT allowed
the best overall teams regardless of conference to enter their tourney, the N.C.A.A. only
admitted conference winners to their tournaments. Because of this the NIT had the
better tourney, although the N.C.A.A. continued to expand the amount of teams its
tournament offered.

A tug of war battle for popularity lasted until 1971 when the N.C.A.A. instituted a rule
barring any team who declined their tourney invitation from other postseason
opportunities. In 1973, NBC moved their coverage of the N.C.A.A. championship game
from Saturday night to Monday night, which the NIT could not match. In 1975, the
N.C.A.A. then eliminated the one team per conference rule expanding their tourney even
more. The NIT then lost Madison Square Garden in 77 in an effort to cut costs and
became miniscule in comparison to the N.C.A.A. tournament. Today, an NIT
tournament bid is consolation for not meeting N.C.A.A. tourney standards.

Today, 351 Division I schools make their case to be one of the 68 teams to compete in
the N.C.A.A.s annual tournament, known famously as March Madness and the Big
Dance, which commences in March and concludes in April. March Madness derived
from sacred Illinois basketball tradition, while Big Dance came from Marquette
University head coach Al McGuire of the 1977 national championship team, who had
sported a lucky blue blazer throughout Marquettes title season and told a reporter
when asked if hed wear it to the tournament: You gotta wear the blue blazer when you
go to the big dance.

The tournament teams include champions from 32 Division I conferences. The
remaining 36 spots are determined by an N.C.A.A. selection committee, consisting of 10
members made up of athletic directors and conference commissioners throughout
Division I men's and women's basketball.

After the 68 are selected, they are distributed in a single-elimination bracket divided
into four sections called regions, and ranked one through 16 within their region. After an
initial four games called the First Four are played between lower-ranked teams, the First
Round (Round of 64) begins with the higher seeded teams playing the lower seeded
ones, such as No. 1 versus No. 16, No. 2 versus No. 15 and so on. Once theyre seeded,
the more a team wins, the further they advance in the tourney. After the Second Round
(Round of 32), teams compete in the regional semi-finals and finals dubbed the Sweet
Sixteen and Elite Eight, respectively. The four regional champions left make up the Final

Before tip-off, every game within the tournament holds the potential to construct the
narrative of probable versus impossible, yet the absurdity of impossible gives way to the
Cinderellas of the Big Dance anyway. The Cinderellas are the underdog teams of March

Madness every year, held responsible for some of the most iconic upsets in tourney

Just four years ago, the ninth-seeded Shockers of Wichita State made an improbable
tournament run, beating No. 8 Pittsburgh, No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 13 La Salle and No. 2
Ohio State to advance to the Final Four. Whats enchanting about a Cinderella team is
their knack to grasp momentum quickly and are adored by even the average basketball
follower. For true fans of the game theyre a uniting cause. For the obsessed fan, a
Cinderella is regarded a bracket buster.

The brackets are another massive aspect of the lifeforce that is college basketball.
Millions of college basketball fans annually participate in the bracket challenge, which
consists of trying to choose the winner of every matchup in the tourney. In other words,
it is an enormous gambling opportunity. Anywhere from one to 10 figures could be at
stake. In 2014, Quicken Loans, founded by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, and
Berkshire Hathaway, run by Warren Buffet, partnered to give away $1 billion to the
person to correctly predict the outcomes of the 2014 mens N.C.A.A. tournament
bracket, although the feat is nearly impossible.

Giddy basketball fans drool over the slim possibility of winning big if their bracket is
correct and the lengths they go to do so can be eye-opening. Some choose strictly off
mascots or team colors, others use algorithms and analysis. Nonsensical? Yeah. But
March Madness, right? Heck, even the leader of the Free World makes time for his
bracket every year.

In addition to the Cinderellas and bracket challenge that make March Madness
memorable, is the stadium atmosphere and thrilling moments engraved in tournament
history. A typical college game can feature thousands of students in attendance, with
home fans donning school colors and screaming deafening chants.

In one instance, a sea of blue and white regularly covers Allen Fieldhouse at the
University of Kansas while eerie renditions of their Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU chant
make Kansas one of the toughest places to play. Just last years national championship
game featured one of the most exciting finishes in recent memory, a buzzer-beating
3-point shot to give Villanova University bragging rights in a 77-74 victory over the
University of North Carolina, drawing a T.V. audience of 17.8 million for the title game
and over 74,000 in attendance.

As important as the Big Dance is, the coaches at the helm of teams years gone by made
college basketball and its tourney the living legend it is now, with the coaching tree of
college basketball starting with the games creator. Naismiths tenure as head coach at
Kansas from 1898 to 1907 planted the coaching trees seed, despite his original qualms
about whether basketball could be coached. His pupil however, Forrest Allen, proved to
Naismith basketball could be coached and coached well. Allen became Naismiths
successor, coaching the Jayhawks for 39 seasons under two separate tenures
(1907-1909, 1919-1956) and became known as the father of college basketball with
three national titles to show for it. Under Allen, the coaching tree grew larger with two
pupils of his own in Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith. Both guys would establish their own
dynasties at the universities of Kentucky (1930-1972) and North Carolina (1961-1997),
respectively, with six national championships and over 1,700 wins combined.

Head coach John Wooden of UCLA was another with tremendous impact on the game.
He taught his players before the first practice how to properly put on their socks and tie
their shoelaces, en route to 10 N.C.A.A. title victories for the Bruins between 1964 to
1975, at one point winning seven consecutively. Bob Knight was another such coaching
legend, coaching the Indiana University Hoosiers (1971-2000) to three N.C.A.A. title
wins and accumulated over 900 total victories in his coaching career, the second most
all-time. The man ahead of Knight, Duke University head coach Mike Coach K

Krzyzewski, was the first ever to grasp a thousand victories in Division I mens college
basketball, coaching the Blue Devils since 1980 to five N.C.A.A. title victories.

On the court itself, basketball is poetry in motion. Moving parts and pieces entirely
equal in size and importance take form in coaches and players. Cooperating cohesively
to achieve an ultimate goal. Since higher educations adoption of basketball, it has
become a game of raucous chants, Cinderella storylines and bracket obsessions.

College basketball can divide the loyalties of an entire states population, create cultural
heroes and grow academic institutions. While the equate of basketball utopia lies in the
NBA the worlds premier professional basketball league and host to the greatest
players around the globe the level at which the game means the most, to the most
people in the most places, is the college game; where the quality of basketball is arguably
without equal and for the teams within it, offers a chance at unprecedented history.

Although, what comes with history and fame on the line, comes opportunity for profit.
College basketballs annual tourney roots major significance in todays N.C.A.A. that is
second to none; calling into question what the N.C.A.A.s true purpose is, with a widely
held belief that many of its athletes are getting stiffed.

Formation & Purpose

Student-athlete success on the field, in the classroom and for life is at the heart of our
mission. - The National Collegiate Athletic Association

The N.C.A.A.s purpose is one thats been outright questioned for the better part of the
21st century. Protecting athletes originally was the most important aspect of the
N.C.A.A., but over time changed as the N.C.A.A.s governance and power over higher
education grew. Basketballs N.C.A.A. tournament was a great gig among others to
blossom from the N.C.A.A., but quickly became about control over what a intercollegiate
sports team could or could not do, with basketball being one of the many affected sports

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, originally known as the Intercollegiate

Athletic Association of the United States, was formed in 1906 by President Theodore
Roosevelt to reform the rules and regulations of college sports.

Early in the 20th century, college football games had resulted in many injuries and even
death, prompting some colleges and universities to stop their football programs. When

Roosevelts son was injured playing football at Harvard in 1905, it prompted him to
support reform for intercollegiate athletics. In December of 1905, Chancellor Henry
MacCracken of New York University convened a meeting of 13 colleges and universities
to initiate changes in football playing rules.

At a follow-up meeting Dec. 28 in New York, 62 higher-education institutions became

charter members of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States. The
formation wound up saving football and protecting intercollegiate athletes from
dangerous and exploitive athletics practices of the time. The N.C.A.A. then took on its
current name in 1910.

For several years, the N.C.A.A. was a discussion group and rules-making organization,
but in 1921 the first N.C.A.A. national championship was conducted with competitions
in track and field. Gradually, more rules committees were formed and more
championships were created, including the N.C.A.A. tournament in 1939.

As college athletics continued to grow and the medium of television was introduced, this
presented problems for the N.C.A.A. and called for a need of full-time leadership. On
cue, Walter Byers was named executive director of the N.C.A.A. in 1951 and a national
headquarters was established in Kansas City, Mo. Byers immediately implemented a
program to control the live broadcast of its football games on television.

Soon, the N.C.A.A. was forced to create a structure that recognized varying levels of
competition. In 1973, the N.C.A.A.s membership was divided into three legislative and
competitive divisions: I, II and III accordingly. In the 1980s, the N.C.A.A. began to
administer women their own athletic programs when Divisions II and III established 10
championships for 1981-82. A year later, the historic 75th Convention adopted an
extensive governance plan to include womens athletics programs, services and

The 1980s were riddled with problems for the N.C.A.A.. The period was marked by
many serious and high-profile cases involving rules violations. Questions about
academic standards surfaced, and the N.C.A.A. responded in 1983 with the adoption of
Convention Proposal No. 48, which strengthened academic requirements for
prospective student-athletes. In 1984, the N.C.A.A. lost control of regular-season
football television rights when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the N.C.A.A. in a
landmark antitrust case.

Thus, college and university presidents became more involved in the governance of the
N.C.A.A. and in 1984, the N.C.A.A. established the Presidents Commission, a group of
presidents from the three divisions charged with setting an annual agenda for the
N.C.A.A.. By October of 1987, after 36 years as the N.C.A.A.s executive director and
establishing himself as a visionary who created sophisticated systems governing
championships, rules and finances, Byers was replaced by University of Virginia
Athletics Director Richard Schultz, who would resign in 1993.

Schulz was succeeded by University of Arizona Athletics Director Cedric Dempsey, who
led the N.C.A.A. beginning in 1994. He then oversaw a landmark 1997 restructuring of
N.C.A.A. governance that provided greater autonomy for each of the divisions and
placed institutional presidents in charge of each division and of the N.C.A.A. in general.

Dempsey served as president until December of 2002 and was replaced in January of
2003 by Myles Brand, President of Indiana University. Brand was the first university
president to serve as the N.C.A.A.s chief executive, imposing major academic reforms in
Divisions I and II, while presidential involvement in governance of the N.C.A.A. became
increasingly effective.

Brand would pass away in September of 2009 and James Isch, formerly an N.C.A.A.
senior vice president and chief financial officer, served as interim president. President at
the University of Washington at the time, Mark Emmert was named the fifth N.C.A.A.
president in April of 2010. Since his takeover, Emmert has stressed presidential
leadership and values-based action during his tenure, with a focus on stronger
enforcement, rules simplification and benefits for student-athletes, among other things.

The collegiate model of athletics in which students participate as an avocation,

balancing their academic, social and athletics experiences.

The highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship.

The pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics.

The supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher

education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the
identity of member institutions.

An inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and

career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.

Respect for institutional autonomy and philosophical differences.

Presidential leadership of intercollegiate athletics at the campus, conference and
national levels. - The N.C.A.A.s Core Values

Today, the N.C.A.A. consists of over 1,100 colleges and universities with more than
460,000 student-athletes making up 19,000 teams. According to the N.C.A.A., their
mission and core values on the surface outline a commitment to the education of their
student-athletes and empowering them to succeed on and off the field, but more than
ever the N.C.A.A. seems hell-bent on enforcing rules and regulations that tamper with
the on-field product, affecting their almost $1 billion annual income while athletes dont
get a penny.

Indentured Servants

Tip-toeing around the N.C.A.A. can become tricky, dangerous even. Many
students-athletes dont dare of crossing the yellow caution tape laid out before them.
Reason being the N.C.A.A. may bring the transgressional hammer down on their
money-making student-athletes.

Student-athletes under todays N.C.A.A. are little more than indentured servants.
Higher education institutions appear to forego the requirements of academic eligibility
for their student-athletes, setting underwhelming GPA requirements to keep them
eligible to play.

In some cases, other student-athletes are forced into majors with not as rigorous
academic requirements to abide to their athletic schedule. Finally, the N.C.A.A.s
policies on protection and insurance to a student-athletes career are nonexistent. All in
the name of a product to be distributed and profited from.

In 1991, a famous quintet of college freshmen basketball players four of them within
the top 10 of top 100 high school players in the country at the time committed to the
University of Michigan, widely regarded as the greatest class ever recruited. The
country wasnt aware of it at the time, but the five guys consisting of Jalen Rose, Chris
Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, wound up changing the culture
of basketball entirely.

The groups undeniable skill propelled them to the peak of Division I college basketball
for back-to-back years, making consecutive N.C.A.A. championship game appearances.
Famously, the quintet became dubbed the Fab Five for their hip-hop style approach to
the game. Hip-hop mixed with an on-court flamboyance sparked the Fab Fives
high-frequency trash-talking, baggy shorts, shaved heads and black athletic socks and
shoes that seeped into basketball culture forever. Although, while the Fab Five
continued winning, the University of Michigan turned their fame into their fortune.

Michigan accumulated almost $10 million in merchandise sales after the Fab Fives first
season together, an $8.5 million increase from the year prior. Shoe giant Nike was
another to profit from the talents of the Fab Five, releasing a sneaker named after the
group. The Fab Five also found themselves routinely being interrupted to travel
overseas, promoting a brand bringing in money for everyone that wasnt them. While
N.C.A.A. title losses and on-court glamour made the Fab Five memorable on the court, it

was an ill-advised relationship off it that brought the death of the Fab Five.

As a result of the Fab Fives relationship with Ed Martin, a booster that gave hundreds of
thousands of dollars to Michigan players while they were in school but most notably
helped Webber the N.C.A.A. vacated the victories of the 1992-93 season and their
Final Four banners.

Presently, this still happens. Collegiate basketball players succumb to taking bribes,
compromising their amateur status. Webber eventually ended up playing in the NBA
and had a successful career there, so why would he take the bribes? Many
student-athletes who come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds such as Webber take
the money to support their families. While the Fab Five brought in millions to the
University of Michigan, Webber wound up ostracized by his alma mater for the money
he took, being banned from the school from 2003 to 2013.

Playing for a Division I program can be a double-edged sword. For the potential athlete
that can go pro, it is an opportunity to showcase their talent, but what the N.C.A.A.
offers for student-athletes beyond that is frugal. Athletic scholarships are proof of such.
Athletic scholarships are offered to the student-athlete on a yearly basis, despite the
predominant notion that a full-ride guarantees fully paid tuition and expenses across
all four years. Coaches can revoke an athletic scholarship at any time based on
performance or due to injury, leaving many N.C.A.A. student-athletes on the bubble.
Athletic scholarships dont fully cover tuition either in most cases and added benefits
arent quite considerable.

In an interview with CNN, former University of Connecticut player Shabazz Napier, who
was on the 2014 UConn national championship team at the time, said some nights he
went to bed starving, despite that UConns student-athlete guidelines include
provisions for meal plans.

I don't feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said,
there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I'm starving.

I just feel like a student-athlete, and sometimes, like I said, there's hungry nights and
I'm not able to eat and I still got to play up to my capabilities. ... When you see your
jersey getting sold it may not have your last name on it but when you see your
jersey getting sold and things like that, you feel like you want something in return.

The comment by Napier stirred some controversy among Connecticut lawmakers, with
Rep. Matthew Lesser looking at possible legislation for change.

He says he's going to bed hungry at a time when millions of dollars are being made off
of him. It's obscene, said Lesser in 2014. This isn't a Connecticut problem. This is an
N.C.A.A. problem, and I want to make sure we're putting pressure on them to treat
athletes well.

Nigel Hayes, a senior basketball player for the University of Wisconsin, was another
recent case of protesting the mistreatment of student-athletes. Last October, Hayes was
seen on live television on ESPNs College GameDay show, carrying a sign asking people
to donate money to an online account. Of course, accepting money as an N.C.A.A.
student-athlete is illegal, so the money was directed to a charity, but the awareness
created a controversy nonetheless.

Former student-athletes are speaking up about the mistreatment as well. First overall
2016 NBA draft pick Ben Simmons out of Louisiana State University said the treatment
of student-athletes was f----- up on his Showtime documentary One and Done,
which aired in early November of 2016.

The N.C.A.A. is really f----- up, he said in an excerpt to ESPN. Everybodys making
money except the players. Were the ones waking up early as hell to be the best teams
and do everything they want us to do and then the players get nothing. They say
education, but if Im there for a year, I cant get much education.

President Barack Obama has also made his displeasure with the N.C.A.A. known and
has urged them to rethink the way they protect and punish their athletes.

[T]he students need to be taken better care of because they are generating a lot of
revenue here, Obama told The Huffington Post in a 2015 sit-down interview. An
immediate step that the N.C.A.A. could take that some conferences have already
taken is if you offer a scholarship to a kid coming into school, that scholarship sticks,
no matter what.

It doesnt matter whether they get cut, it doesnt matter whether they get hurt. You are
now entering into a bargain and responsible for them.

Talent Fleeting

As the N.C.A.A. has continued to run its course and rule over their student-athletes, they
have gone to great lengths to keep prospective professional basketball talent as close to
them as possible. From 1995 to 2005, the NBA had an increasing influx of high school
players skipping college and headed straight for the NBA draft. Numerous players made
the jump from prep-to-pro before 1995, but the actual number of players to make the

league and stay there in that span was nothing to boast about, hurting NBA competition
to some degree.

The most prospective talents that were guarantees to be drafted and make a mark on the
NBA became common practice starting in 1995 with high schooler Kevin Garnett and
others soon followed. Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard
were others that were drafted straight out of high school and became superstars in the
NBA alongside Garnett. This talent the N.C.A.A. missed out on spelled bad news for
Division I college basketball competition and their pockets, but a change instigated by
the NBA was soon to come and inadvertently helped the N.C.A.A. in the long run.

One & Done

In 2005, the NBA instituted a rule banning the prep-to-pro practice of high schoolers
going straight to the pros. The new rule required high school players with pro
aspirations to be at least 19-years of age before declaring for the draft and be one year
removed from high school after the graduation year. On the surface, the new legislation
was viewed as a good thing for the NBA, enabling scouts across the Association to better
focus on talent that would be ideal for the basketball consumer on the viewing market.

For the N.C.A.A., this rule arguably was a blessing in disguise. Top NBA prospective
talent out of high school were given only a few options to kill time between high school
and the NBA. Prospective players could head overseas to play for a year, not play, or go
to college for a year. The path routinely chosen now for the NBAs most prestigious
prospects has been the college route, but has birthed a concept thats hurt the college
game on the court; not to mention the athletes themselves.

The one and done concept has hurt the competition level in college, with top N.C.A.A.
title contenders like Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, UConn and others year after year
becoming factories rather than higher education institutionsrecycling the best young
talent in the nation, all the while making ticket sales spike. The N.C.A.A. has argued this
rule encourages top professional prospects to stay in school and receive a formal
education while on scholarship, but one year simply isnt enough and is a poor attempt
at what could be done better to serve the student-athlete. Eleven years later and the rule
hasnt changed or been altered. It is a dire scenario for the student-athlete with pro hoop

Perhaps even more dangerous than the one and done concept could be the steady
increase of more and more student-athlete basketball players believing they can go pro
and taking the chance. Unfortunately, reality is harsh and many student-athletes find
out the hard way at how small of a chance it is to make the NBA and stay there.

The Self-Bias Phenomenon

At the height of the N.C.A.A., some Division I collegiate athletes sit atop a mountain of
athletic achievement not many of their peers will be able to lay their fingertips on.

The collegiate athletes sitting at the mountains peak now stand for a better view. It is
bright and sunny at first glance, a Promised Land on the horizon filled with dreams and
aspirations of a career's worth of professional athletic successes. But on closer
examination, many of these collegiates cant climb down the mountain and progress
towards the paradise they believe awaits them.

Collegiate athletes are overestimating their chances of playing professional sports in the
United States and Division I mens basketball players are the worst of culprits. In 2011,
the N.C.A.A. published the Division I Results from the N.C.A.A. GOALS Study on the
Student-Athlete Experience. A totaled 611 N.C.A.A. schools participated in this study,
recording the responses of athletes pertaining to their respective athletic experiences on

Based on the N.C.A.A.s findings, college mens basketball players are being caught
between the perceptions and realities of advancing to the NBA, the worlds premier
professional basketball league, with 76 percent of Division I mens basketball players
believing they will go pro. In Division II, 48 percent of their mens basketball players
also believe it is likely they will go pro and 21 percent of Division III players think
likewise. Across all three divisions, only 1.1 percent make it to the NBA.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Gershon Tenenbaum, a sports psychology

professor at Florida State University, called this self-serving perception of college
athletes with professional dreams, the self-bias phenomenon.

For many of these hopeful athletes, the idea that one day they can play professionally is
a vision theyve carried for much of their young lives. And statistics from the N.C.A.A.
dont seem to deter any of them. Collegiate basketball players are of an exclusive 3
percent group making the jump from high school to the N.C.A.A., with nearly 19,000
college mens basketball players in total and 5,500 playing Division I. Fueled by the
individual successes these collegiate athletes had in high school, this phenomenon came
to fruition.

Its the nature of how elevated sports are in this country, even at the youth level, said
Dan Lebowitz in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, the executive director of
Northeastern Universitys Center for the Study of Sport in Society. By the time a
basketball or football player gets to Division I or Division II, theyve already been a star
in their own town and community. They have been elevated to celebrity status at such a
young age, before their frontal lobe has even fully developed. It creates a high
confidence level, but also a delusion around whats actually possible.

Furthermore, Lebowitz also stated that when athletes think of college ball only as an
audition for the pros, their studying habits suffer from a lack of focus.

According to Mark Nagel, a professor of sports and entertainment management at the

University of South Carolina, said this is especially true for athletes coming from
lower-income communities, where athletics are viewed by some talented players as one
of the few viable options to a better life.

Good athletes get so consumed with playing their sports, its very difficult to take a step
back and realize what else is going on, Nagel said. Its commendable in some ways,
because its really what they want to do. Its an all-consuming passion.

It is not that N.C.A.A. athletes arent capable of competing at a professional level, but a
limited amount of opportunities doesnt help their chances to play. The NBA consists of
30 teams across the United States from Boston to Los Angeles and holds 60 spots for
new players in their draft every year. Consequently, only 46 of a possible 1,207 NBA
draft-eligible Division I players were chosen in the 2015 NBA draft. Thats 3.8 percent.
The other 14 spots went to international talents.

However, the hopefuls that arent drafted have opportunities in the NBAs development
and international leagues, albeit not many. From 2013 to 2015, only 12.2 percent of NBA
draft-eligible Division I players competed professionally in the NBA, NBA Development
League and overseas. It is still a chance, but only 32 percent of mens basketball players
who grasped a pro opportunity just barely touched their shoes to the hardwood in their
first professional year after leaving school.

In January of 2016, N.C.A.A. President Mark Emmert took significant time out of the
N.C.A.A. State of the Association address to speak on the perceptions and realities of its
athletes going pro.

What keeps me up at night, and I suspect a lot of you as well, is that we all know there
is a huge number of our studentathletes who have grossly unrealistic expectations of
playing professional sports, he said.

For those students who think they will go pro but aren't and don't and learn that hard
lesson later, I think we still need to help them prepare for life after sports. When you
think about the numbers, 75 percent of Division I men's basketball players, for example,
and only 2 percent are going pro when 75 percent believe they are, there is a lot who are
going to have that dream taken away and they are going to have to deal with reality.
We've got to work with those students to make sure that our commitment to help them
get ready for life maintains itself.

In the aftermath of these lasting perceptions, new policies have been composed to aid
student-athletes attain a four-year degree when their dreams of professional athletics
may not be recognized. The universities of South Carolina and Indiana are two such
examples, making commitments in 2014 to multiyear scholarships for their athletes,
instead of year-to-year renewals traditionally used in college athletics.

All things considered, the University of South Carolina and Indiana University are only
of a handful of N.C.A.A. schools offering such programs. As a result, pro hopefuls are
caught in the self-bias phenomenon, with an unfinished education and unfulfilled
professional dreams.

The possible, yet improbable lifestyle they spend their waking hours working tirelessly
can be ceased instantly, as simply as the bright lights of an arena floor; unaware of the
trappings of their sports boundary lines and leaving a future thats merely a blur.

At the Helm

As the national debate continues over whether student-athletes should get paid, Dan
Weidmann, a former student-athlete thats played during this controversial narrative,
has used the opportunities hes been given to coach and play basketball at the collegiate
level, giving him years of experience with the N.C.A.A. Although N.C.A.A. sanctions and
rulings didnt effect Weidmann directly because he was Division III student-athlete,
Weidmann has been around the game long enough to develop an understanding of how
todays student-athletes are affected by the N.C.A.A.

The 27-year-old played on the RWU basketball team for his first three years of college
and was a student-assistant coach his senior year. In 2012, Weidmann graduated with a
degree in Journalism. Unable to find a job as a sports reporter after graduating, he took
advantage of a coaching opportunity at his alma mater and carved out a role, returning
for the 2013-14 season in which he was officially added to the staff again. He serves as

the primary recruiting coordinator for the team, in addition to assisting the head coach
for practices and games.

Weidmann says hes had a passion for coaching his entire life and credited the impact
his coaches had on him growing up as a factor in his desire to give back and make a
difference in the lives of young adults. Now in his fourth year as an assistant coach,
Weidmann understands what it means to be a student-athlete better than almost
anyone, especially now that hes in the coaching chair.

"Obviously, [having] an understanding of the game, Weidmann said on how his

experience as a player has aided him in coaching. That has its own benefits for sure, but
I think it's just, How do you wanna be coached? What works for you, what works for
your teammates, what didn't you like about coaches when you were playing for them? I
think that having that experience is the thing that helps you the most at the end of the
day because I always have to constantly remind myself I was in their shoes. I was that
18-year-old kid that had two exams to go home and study for and a paper due on Friday
and my girlfriend just dumped me and you know, what emotions are they feeling outside
of the court?"

In addition to knowing how it feels to be in the shoes of his players, Weidmann also
understands the stereotypes surrounding Division I and Division III basketball.
Weidmann argues that the work ethic and dedication is almost entirely the same across
both divisions, but Division III winds up not receiving the credit it should.

I think and this goes for a lot of people no one understands how hard these kids
work, especially at this level, he says. This level is a little different than Division I
because there's no scholarship keeping these kids here. It's easy for a Division I athlete
who's on a full scholarship to get up at 6 a.m. to go to a team lift. It's easy for a Division I
or Division II athlete on full scholarship to be told you have to wear a suit and tie to a
game. There's education hanging over their heads. At our level, guys are doing this for
the love of the game and the commitment behind that. I think not a lot of people truly
understand what they put in, how much time they put in and just the sacrifices they
have to make.

Weidmann also stressed the high expectations himself and the rest of the coaching staff
place on their players, which demands a commitment to excellence everyday.

I would say as a team we have a tremendous culture set that is a blue collar, hard-hat,
roll your sleeve up culture, he says. Where we have it now with upperclassmen, who

are such blue-collar guys that the freshman coming in don't have a choice but to do what
they do. Because of that, we've now seen multiple years in a row where our culture now
is pretty set, so those standards are kinda in place. So, our expectations are, 'When you
get here, you're gonna have to work at this everyday.'

Being a coach in the years after spending his collegiate days as a student-athlete has
allowed Weidmann to see the N.C.A.A. in a different light. He doesnt think
student-athletes should be paid because of the benefits and resources they receive, while
also drawing a parallel between high and low money-making Division I programs as a
significant reason why.

The number of athletes that actually play that would deserve anything is so small when
you think of the grand scheme of things, he argues. Sure, does Kentucky and UConn
bring in millions of dollars every season? I believe it, but look at what those
student-athletes are provided. Not only are they provided free education to often not
some of the best schools in the country Kentucky's a great school, UConn's a great
school all these schools are great academic schools. So not only are they provided a
great education, but endless resources... Free meals, the classes, the tutoring, the
clothes, the travel. These guys are traveling all over the country and the experience that
they're getting I think is extremely significant and [should] be more looked at because
those schools are driving in millions of dollars, but what about Quinnipiac versus
Hartford? What about Brown versus Bryant? Those are two Division I schools so those
schools don't make millions of dollars in revenue.

While Weidmann doesnt believe Division I student-athletes should be paid, he does

believe the N.C.A.A. has to reform their methods of punishing athletes and let them
defend themselves.

The fact that the N.C.A.A. is its own governing body that doesn't have to apply
American rights to their traditional system is wrong in itself, wrong, he says.
They're a government body that doesn't offer due process. If you do something wrong,
that's it. They don't give you a chance to defend yourself.

For Weidmann, he says the student-athlete experience entirely to him was crucial in his
growth as a person and that when discussing the topic of whether Division I
student-athletes should be paid, he encourages others to research the benefits they get
and factor in the reasons theyre primarily invested in the sport.

"I just think that sports I think that there's so many more benefits to sports that
unfortunately I think in this generation we're not teaching kids enough about where
everything is, Me, me, me. I want, I want, I want. And so, I think now we're seeing all
these kids saying, 'Why should I go play if I'm not getting paid?' Well, it's like you look
back on it it's like, when did that even get into the conversation? You play because you
love it and want to compete at the highest level. That's why you do it... When you get
into the conversation about paying Division I athletes, I think you eliminate the core
value of athletics."

The Final Stretch

Josh Syska stands on the sideline. Hes just picked up his third foul after knocking a guy
to the floor with 12:27 to go in the second half. Connecticut College has turned their
four-point halftime deficit into a four-point advantage, 49-45. Josh wipes his face clean
of sweat with his jersey, then takes a swig of water from a plastic blue and black
Powerade bottle.

Over the next four minutes, a layup, two made free throws and a pair of triples give
RWU a two-point edge, 55-53, with 8:31 to go in the contest. With just over seven to go,
Coene gets to the free-throw line and makes one of two for a three-point advantage. The
next time down the floor, Jaylen Jennings gets a clean look at a 3-pointer and buries it,
giving RWU a six-point edge with 6:36 to go. Two made free throws by Connecticut
College after an RWU foul cut the lead to four, but RWU has heated up from long range
as Nick Marini tees up a three and drills it for a seven-point lead, 62-55, and the Hawk
bench has rose to their feet.

The Camels inbound the ball and head the other way with their ball handler making a
pass to the right corner on the far side of the court. The Camel player drives and is
fouled on his way to the rim. The ref blows his whistle and the buzzer sounds as Josh
checks back in with 5:04 remaining. He takes position under the basket as the Camels
attempt a free throw after the RWU foul. The shot catches the back of the rim and Coene
comes away with the rebound and passes to Marini to get into the offense, hoping to
further extend the lead.

A few quick pases around the perimeter clears space for Marini to drive to the bucket
with his right hand and gets two for a nine-point lead. On the next possession, the
Camels fire a jumper that connects, cutting the lead to seven again, 64-57.

Camels call timeout.

Over the next four and a half minutes, the Hawks end the game with a 15-7 run,
highlighted by solid team defense with Josh at its source. As the final seconds of the
game clock tick down, the home crowd claps as victory is all but a few seconds secured.
Josh stands at center court with his hands on his hips and shares a smile with a
teammate, breaking his usually stern game-face.

In the hallway as the Hawks walk to the locker room, screaming and yelling in
celebration can be heard. For the nonchalant fan back in the gym, it may be difficult to
find the voices source. Others may know right away. One can guess it is probably Josh,
doing what he does best.

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