Ward returned from a church mission in 2009 too late to enroll in school. He trained on his own before starting school in January. That fall, he traveled to California to watch his younger brother compete in a regional cross-country race. As a prelude to the real race, there was a recreational race for coaches, parents and other supporters of the athletes. Ward decided to enter at the last minute since he needed to do a workout that day anyway.
Roger Buhrley, Ward’s high school coach, ran in the race that day. He describes it as a race for middle-aged, out-of-shape coaches and overweight parents. “There were two guys following me for the first mile who were discussing how drunk they had gotten the night before and how hung over they were,” says Buhrley. “One of them was about 5-7, 200 pounds. Most (of the runners) make it look like the Provo 18th Ward Fun Run. The field is comprised of an occasional costumed runner, several joggers past middle age, quite a few who look like they should jog over to Jenny Craig’s, and slow men’s and women’s coaches who are just giving their athletes an opportunity to yell ‘go catch that old lady in the pink tights’ at them. The age range is about 20 to 60.”
For this, Ward missed most of his senior season?
At best, the NCAA’s enforcement and sanctions are arbitrary and mindless. Last weekend it was reported that Kansas point guard Naadir Tharpe was suspended one game for playing in an “unauthorized” pro-am game last summer in Chicago. Meanwhile, Harries, Rhodes and Ward were suspended one to two seasons for participating in fun runs and rec leagues that clearly weren’t going to give them an advantage against collegiate athletes. NCAA rules, by the way, allow basketball players to play in summer leagues as long as they are in their home area. Don’t even try to make sense out of that. Or this: Johnny Manziel, the Heisman winner, gets suspended for a half-game for selling autographs.
By reinstating Ward, the NCAA enabled him to compete in Friday’s NCAA region championships in Ogden and the NCAA championships eight days later. They just can't give back the other meets he missed this season and the opportunities to compete with his senior class.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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