The Real College Problem

When David Gross, Commissioner of Major League Lacrosse, suggested that professional ultimate would be hindered by the fact that the sport does not have NCAA recognition, he introduced a larger topic that I’ve been curious about since the AUDL first started last year: college eligibility.

Since ultimate isn’t an officially sanctioned NCAA sport, there hasn’t been much said about college athletes playing on professional teams in the AUDL and MLU because there is no rule in place — like there is for all NCAA athletes — requiring them to maintain their amateur status. This could quickly change, though, especially if USA Ultimate — organizers of the college series — begins to view the rise of these professional leagues as a threat to the success of their plans. Because they control the division, USAU could easily decide to institute eligibility rules aimed at keeping college players from turning pro if they felt it was in the organization’s best interest.

Nexgen’s recent proposal that would bring ultimate’s elite club teams together to form another new pro league is particularly antagonistic towards USAU and, if it comes to fruition, could be a death blow to the Triple Crown Tour. It isn’t unreasonable to believe that USAU would respond strongly if they perceived competition from professional ultimate as negatively influencing their product. The creation of strict eligibility rules for the college division to dissuade young talent from jumping onto a professional team seems like an obvious place for them to start.

If one of the goals in promoting the sport of ultimate is getting NCAA recognition, this is an issue that will have to be addressed eventually regardless. In the short-term, though, it will be interesting to watch whether USA Ultimate and the professional ultimate leagues can co-exist in harmony or if friction between the various organizations’ plans make this an issue sooner than later.

  1. Wes Cronk
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    Wesley Cronk is the Vice President of Business Development of Ultiworld. Originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, he started playing ultimate in high school and split his college ultimate between the University of Florida and New York University. He has played open club with Vicious Cycle (Gainesville) and Fox Trot Swag Team Unity (New York). He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. You can reach him by email (wes@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@wescronk).

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