In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, University of Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson used social media to solicit donations from coaching colleagues to be distributed to families affected by the devastation in Houston. Specifically, what he wanted was clothing—new t-shirts and shoes, something athletic programs around the country might have in surplus—that volunteers on his end could steer around town to those in need. It sounds like the drive was successful, attracting donations from schools and private citizens alike:
As with certain other amateur relief drives, this one is obviously imperfect—several charities working in Houston apparently don’t have much need for Sampson’s haul—but this is still a stockpile of goods ready to be freely distributed in an area of the world where people are gonna need to get their hands on things to replace all the things they lost. Whether the Red Cross wants the shoes or not, eventually they are bound to find their way to the feet of people who do. Except, wait, what’s that stench?
NCAA rules, though, stand between donations and kids in need.
“They don’t want us sending all this nice gear to the top recruit in Houston,” said Lauren Dubois, senior associate athletics director for UH. “But, obviously that is not our intention at all.”
Dubois said the program risks punishment if they give anything to potential recruits, their parents or youth leagues.
This is from a disheartening KHOU report that describes “nearly 15,000 donations” from individuals and programs around the country as “nearly untouched” as they sit in storage while the athletic department figures out how to distribute their haul while ensuring that literally none of it goes to kids who are especially good at sports.
This concern started popping up when the university returned to business Tuesday and hundreds of donations started rolling in. From a CBS Sports report:
One group Sampson and Houston can’t help? High schoolers. At least not directly. NCAA compliance bylaws prevent the university from gifting potential student-athletes with items, even in times of natural disasters. It’s not known for certain whether or not Houston would actually come under NCAA review and face penalties for something like that, but the program is not taking any chances. So any donations that eventually wind up in the hands of potential Houston-area Division I prospects will be donated through official charities.
The problem, thus far, is that many of the official charities approached by the university have “different needs” that apparently don’t include much of what Sampson now has in abundance. The university is reportedly seeking something called a legislative relief waiver from the NCAA, which would allow them to give out their stuff without worrying about future consequences. Imagine bylaws that consider the virtues of amateurism more sacred than the needs of victims of a natural disaster. The NCAA sucks.
Update: The NCAA has now reportedly given the university permission to distribute the donations to local school districts.