Pregnant Athletes Could Lose Scholarships

By Ashley Schofield

Men and women share the courts and fields, but they don’t share
the possible consequences of intercourse.

According to a recent MSNBC article, female athletes at various
campuses are involved in situations where pregnancy is endangering
their scholarship candidacy.

Elizabeth Sorenson, a leader of a campaign at Wright State
University in Ohio, is avidly working to begin policies for the
protection of pregnant athletes.

“What do they do for males who impregnate women when they’re in
college?” said Sorenson in the MSNBC article. “They must treat
pregnancy as a temporary disabling condition, just like a knee
injury or something.”

While both parties are responsible, men slide off the hook
because they can still physically perform. Women face the
consequence of not participating athletically and possibly
academically.

Women are going to extremes to prevent scholarship loss in fear
of ending their academic careers; MSNBC reported one athlete had an
abortion to prevent ineligibility.

“You sign a national letter of intent when receiving a
scholarship,” said Danah Smith, a third-year kinesiology student
and basketball player. “I guess there is nothing you can do about
pregnancy. You can’t play.”

When student-athletes receive grant-in-aids, they are aware of
the policies and procedures they must maintain to keep their
scholarships. Each student is held responsible for the conditions
outlined by the contract they sign when they first receive the
scholarship.

“It really depends on the coach and case-by-case basis,” said
Isabelle Harvey, head coach of Cal Poly’s women’s soccer team.
“Obviously they are here to perform, study, and graduate; it is my
job to educate and tell [girls] to be careful.”

Cal Poly only promises grant-in-aids for one year, and they must
be renewed at the end of each full academic term. This process
allows coaches to determine if an athlete is continually deserving
of his or her award.

During the time frame in which the award is received, misconduct
could result in annulling one’s grant. Cal Poly outlines policies
for termination in the Law 15.3 Period of Institutional Financial
Aid One Year Limit. The first guideline is as follows:

“Reduction and Cancellation during Period of Award (15.3.4)
Institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics
ability may be reduced or canceled during the period of the award,
if the recipient: a) renders herself ineligible for intercollegiate
competition (this could be related to pregnancy).”

The NCAA leaves campus administration and coaches to decide how
to deal with pregnancy situations.

“My belief is simple: If you become pregnant and you are not
able to provide the competition to the program you are contracted
with, then the university should have the privilege of cancellation
of your grant-in-aid,” said Rosie Wegrich, head coach of Cal Poly’s
volleyball team.

If an athlete becomes pregnant, then she does not have the means
to serve her team to her full potential and after a few months will
be inactive altogether.

“If I became pregnant, then I couldn’t live up to my fulfillment
to my team, which is my first commitment,” said Leila Brewster, a
third-year international business and marketing student and soccer
player. “It is a choice.”

However, cutting off monetary support could be the end to one’s
college career.

“I would have to finish up school and figure out how to pay the
expenses,” said Smith.

Although athletics provides the support, academics are the
reason a student is in school. Only a small fraction of collegiate
athletes go on to pursue sports professionally.

“It depends on how good you are and how you are helping the
team,” said Shannon Gutierrez, a first-year kinesiology student and
basketball player on overcoming pregnancy.

In some instances student-athletes have been asked back, but
juggling a new child, school and sports is a heavy load.

“An instance occurred in my second year here,” said Janet
Cassidy, an assistant coach with Cal Poly’s women’s soccer team.
“We invited her to come back, but she had a new set of
priorities.”

After pregnancy, athletes have to work hard to reach the shape
they were once in. The MSNBC article reported that some campuses
are developing pregnancy policies to help athletes who become
pregnant to later return on scholarship.

Ashley Schofield can be reached by e-mail at
sports@thepolypost.com or by phone at (909) 869-4630.

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