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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 23, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsThe Tuck Rule

NCAA age rule hurts younger college athletes

College athletics are tricky. The freshman coming onto the team are 17 or 18 years old and, in the case of most men, not fully grown. It’s common for a scrawny freshman to compete with a mature and muscular 22-year-old on the same team.

When the freshmen on the men’s lacrosse team faced off against the Rochester Institute of Technology, they were not only facing off against players four years older than them.

That would have been a normal, everyday experience for them. But instead, they also had to compete against Brendan MacDonald, a 26-year-old, someone who is eight years older than them. This player graduated from high school when they were entering middle school.

I’m not saying this athlete playing is the sole reason the men’s lacrosse team fell to RIT, as the player only had one assist and on a team that strong and deep, there was definitely another player that could have filled in. But still, how is that fair and why is that allowed?

According to the NCAA, there is no set age limit for any athletes. However, Division I athletes are required to enroll in school one calendar year after high school graduation and then have just five years to complete a typical four-year degree. On the Division III level, athletes still have only four years of eligibility, but they can spread these seasons out for as long as they like. Since Division I sports are more competitive and the stakes are higher, the rules are stricter.

I don’t mean to call out a particular athlete, as I’m sure there are many that have done the same. However, it just seems ridiculous that someone who is eight years older than an opposing player is allowed to compete. Yes, Division III schools are all about having fun and playing the sport they love, but doesn’t that still come with rules?

There have been other cases, such as the 43-year-old that went back to school after completing a career in the navy that joined the Geneva College basketball team. But in that case, being older would have been more of a disadvantage than a bonus. Division III sports are supposed to be all about having fun. I get that, I really do. But is it really fun when someone that could be your parent is on the  team? Twenty-six is the age that men’s athletics abilities tend to peak, compared to 18, when in many cases they are still growing. At 18, most haven’t been able to fully take advantage of the weight room, as it is advised that people do not get serious about lifting weights until they are fully grown. Aside from athletic ability, the male brain fully develops at age 25. That means that at 26, this  athlete can theoretically make more logical choices on the field.

It just seems like a situation that shouldn’t have occurred at all, and something that could easily be fixed if the NCAA enforced the same rules it does in Division I.

Danielle Allentuck can be reached at dallentuck@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @d_allentuck