In today’s episode we are going to be talking about specific cases within college football and athletes that have suffered injury and abuse under the NCAA which claims to work to “protect them.”
JUSTINE DRAKE, HOST:
Hello and welcome to The Ray Dennison Legacy: Money, Power, and Amateurism presented by Urban Plains. In this series, Justine Drake, Jackson Ostroski, and Zac Gideon will be taking a dive into the NCAA, its subsequent sports, and the athletes that the NCAA quote-unquote refers to as student-athletes. Stuck in a world between traditional students and employees, the exploitation of collegiate athletes has been occurring for decades. In this series, we’ll look into the history of the NCAA, specific cases in which the NCAA has abused power for profit, and different athletes who have suffered for it.
In this episode we will be specifically looking at football, the scandals that followed, and how the NCAA responded.
JACKSON OSTROSKI, HOST:
Out of the three stories that we’re gonna be covering today. The most recent being in May 29th, 2018, Jordan McNair, 19 year olds from Randallstown, Maryland collapsed during workouts at the university of Maryland football facilities. The first conditioning practice of his sophomore season, he died two weeks later on June 13, from heat stroke. The internal body temperature was set to be at 106 degrees. The outdoor temperature was around 80 degrees at 4:15 Eastern time. When the team was scheduled to run ten 110 yard sprints, strength and conditioning coaches, as well as athletic trainers were present during the workouts. When McNair was showing clear signs of distress, loss of motor control and heat exhaustion, the athletic trainers started to support him and try to provide active recovery by walking him around the field.
According to ESPN, “multiple sources said after the, after the 10th sprint finished west Robinson, Maryland’s longtime head football trainer yelled ‘drag his ass across the field.’”
After collapsing during the active recovery, athletic training staff brought McNair into the facilities to further evaluate him. This is when McNair started to seize.
An EMT was called and the family attorney Bill Murphy was interviewed by ESPN saying, “our preliminary investigation reveals there is an unexplained one hour time period where nothing significant was done to avoid the complications of heatstroke. Although there is some evidence that allegedly tried to cool him down. He could have been iced immediately. He was presented at the hospital with a temperature of 106, which means he was not cooled down. We were very concerned about the unexplained hour between the time of seizure and hyperventilation that was observed by the coach and what happened in the hour before the EMT people were actually called. This points to an udder disregard of the health of this player and we are extraordinarily concerned that the coach did not react appropriately to his injury.”
Finally, in 2021, the University of Maryland paid the McNair family 3.5 million in the settlement. The NCAA during the internal investigation into Maryland’s athletic department stayed silent in the time between the death and 2018 and the 2021 settlement. The NCAA was tied up in court cases all around amateurism in sports. Once again, going back to the original mission statement of the NCAA in 1906, the NCAA was founded to keep college athletes safe. The association is still working hard to protect them physically and mentally through its sports science Institute. The NCAA provides recommendations and guidelines to ensure college athletes are getting the best care possible to this day. The NCAA has continued to stay silent and has not released any information or any comment about the death of McNair at the University of Maryland.
On September 8th, 2012, Devon Walker, a senior playing safety at Tulane University was paralyzed from the neck down when he collided head-on with one of his teammates while trying to tackle a Tulsa ball carrier near the end of the first half in the game. Walker laid motionless on the field, needed to have chest compressions performed, and was hospitalized for several months where he received care for his injuries.
Since the accident, Walker has fought everyday to get better in the hopes of one day being able to walk again with advancement of technology. The following year, Walker completed his undergraduate degree in cell and molecular biology and earned his master’s in Neuroscience. Walker continues to work towards finding a way to cure spinal cord injuries.
In 2016, The Devon Walker Foundation was founded by Devon Walker and a group of associates. The foundation works to increase awareness around spinal cord injuries through education of preventive efforts and medical research to increase quality of life and cure spinal cord injuries.
Through the Devon Walker Foundation, there have been charity tournaments and basketball games to raise awareness and money to help those with spinal cord injuries. To learn more and support, please visit the Devon Walker Foundation at devonwalker.org.
Looking into what the NCAA did, there wasn’t any effort made by the NCAA to make the game safer in direct conjunction with Devon Walker’s incident. At the end of the 2012-2013 season, the NCAA proposed 10 new rule changes. Of those ten rules, there were some proposed that were intentionally helping to reduce risk of injury.
Targeting. If a player was targeting a defenseless player above the shoulder, they would be ejected from the game in addition to a 15-yard penalty.
Blocking below the waist. Any block below the waist that occurs in front of a defender is legal and all other blocks that are below the waist are illegal.
Number changes. When a player switches to a different number, it must be announced during the game to prevent the team from deceiving an opponent leading to injury.
Eighth official. The Big 12 would be able to have an eighth official during conference games. The added official would line up alongside the referee in the backfield for an extra set of eyes on players.
The NCAA does not support athletes who are injured (at least back in 2012-13) The NCAA does not have any rules in regards to providing care to an athlete. In the 2012-2013 NCAA Division I Manual, there was less than a page regarding the care a university needs to provide to an injured student. Walker has never talked about what the NCAA has done, but he has spoken about the care he received from Tulane.
The NCAA currently has a page on their website called “Preventing Catastrophic Injury and Death in Collegiate Athletes” with links to recommendations, FAQ’s, and checklists which was last updated in 2019.
Efforts made by Tulane University, Tulane’s physical trainer, helped Walker receive the care he needed. Devon is welcomed to be a part of the team as well as travel to any away game he would like to. In 2018, Tulane University retired Walker’s jersey number, number 18 in all sports, indefinitely.
ZACARY GIDEON, HOST:
On October 28, 1989, Chucky Mullins, who was a Defensive Back for the Ole Miss Rebels, was playing in his Homecoming game against Vanderbilt. Mullins was lunging for a tackle against Vanderbilt Fullback Brad Gaines, but he went in for the tackle head first, and after it didn’t end very well.
This injury had caused a significant amount of injury to Mullins’ body, specifically his spine, where he had completely shattered four of his vertebrae in his spine, which caused immediate paralysis. Mullins would never see the field as an athlete again.
Mullins had to be instantly air transported to the Baptist Memorial Hospital, located in Memphis Tennessee, where he went through a tracheotomy, but also a bone graft surgery that took around five hours to complete. This operation was done to try and fuse the damaged vertebrae.
Less than a year later after being able to return to his studies after the gruesome injury, Mullins was hit with a pulmonary embolism, which are caused by blood clots that were formed by little to no circulation.
Mullins was taken to the hospital where he later died on May 6, 1991, and was buried in his hometown of Russellville Alabama.
The NCAA response’s, there was no response on the incident was made by the NCAA about the injury of Chucky Mullins.
On September 26, 2014 there was a Coliseum Drive that took place on Ole Miss’ campus that was eventually renamed after Mullins and was called the Chucky Mullins Drive. Throughout Mullins time in the hospital before his death, Mullins had built a close friendship with Gaines, and they did not know each other before the accident.
After the passing of Mullins, Gaines continued to visit the gravesite of Mullins three times each year, one of those days including May 6, the anniversary of Mullins death. Due to the large impact of Mullins injury, it became the primary topic of a SEC documentary called “It’s Time” which first aired on the SEC Network in September of 2014.
Thank you for listening to The Ray Dennison Legacy: Money, Power, and Amateurism presented by Urban Plains. Next episode we will be looking at basketball and how scandals changed the lives of athletes, families, and universities forever. Thank you again and we will see you next episode.