During the Nov. 6 faculty meeting, the Faculty Council addressed an email chain discussing concerns for student football players’ health. The emails also detailed the role of football at Lewis & Clark.
The emails, sent by faculty, sparked concerns that some faculty members may favor removing football from LC. Associate Professor of History and Faculty Council member Elliot Young spoke on the complexity of this issue.
“One of the main concerns regarding ending the football program would be negatively impacting gender and racial diversity,” Young said via email.
While the email discussion of football was mentioned in the meeting, faculty members agreed that more data collection is needed before further inquiry. Associate Professor and Chair of Chemistry Anne Bentley and Professor of Chinese Keith Dede, both of whom are faculty athletic representatives, will collect data for their annual report, which will be considered by the Faculty Council in February 2020.
Bentley hoped to debunk any circulating rumors.
“The college is not considering dropping football at this point,” Bentley said.
The discussion about concussions impacting student health is gaining traction. However, there are standards set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that all colleges and universities belonging to the NCAA must follow. These regulations determine how to treat and prevent concussions.
“There (are) a lot of people who look at what we call the Division I schools … the big schools, and kind of assume that we’re a miniature version of the same thing,” Bentley said. “But we have different regulations.”
The NCAA has an annual conference to determine legislation and regulation for football and all other NCAA recognized sports, which includes deciding when seasons and practices start, regulating how and when athletes practice and setting guidelines to protect players.
The 2019 Convention Legislation for Division III sports states that “student- athletes may practice in full pads. However, an institution may not conduct multiple on-field practice sessions on the same day.”
During the season, this is the minimum standard set for practices by the NCAA. However, players on the LC football team said that LC coaches and trainers take extra precautions.
Defensive back Makana Laboy ’21 said that the coaches are aware of the dangers involved with hitting drills.
“The coaches limit the amount of hitting we do, especially once we start playing games,” Laboy said via email. “We may hit once in the week, but for the most part our coaches want to save the hitting for Saturdays and keep all of us free from injuries going into each game.”
The NCAA requires players to have a preseason training on concussions. According to the NCAA website, players are also required to “sign an acknowledgment, on an annual basis during their preparticipation evaluation, that they have been provided, read and understood the concussion education material.”
Quarterback Caden Voges ’20 spoke about the treatment of concussions both before and during the season.
“Every year the freshman and incoming players undergo concussion baseline testing and education,” Voges said via email. “If you are showing signs of a concussion during the season, you have to retake the concussion test and if you score below your baseline, they will hold you out of certain activities depending on severity … our training staff does a really good job of prioritizing the health of the players first and foremost.”
Nonetheless, concussions, whether they occur during practice or in games, remain a serious issue.
According to a study conducted at Boston University in 2017, “Cumulative head impact exposure predicts later- life depression, apathy, executive dysfunction, and cognitive impairment in former high school and college football players.”
Bentley emphasized that football players are able to make their own decisions regarding personal health and the sport they play.
“The narrative of ‘we want to take care of the students’ can kind of take that agency away from them (football players),” Bentley said. “Football means something to them.”
As the faculty waits for the annual report conducted by the faculty athletic representatives to be finalized,quarterback Noah Riley ’21, who had a concussion earlier this year, elaborated on how football brought him to LC.
“I wouldn’t go to Lewis & Clark if there wasn’t football,” Riley said. “It’s extremely important because of the people it brings to campus … it’s starting to bring the school together a little more.”
He also explained how football has helped him find a community on campus.
“It’s given me support academically, socially and developed me into a better person,” Riley said. “The people I know from football are going to be … my friends for the rest of my life. There’s a special bond that goes beyond the game.”