CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Showing a commitment in support of pregnant student-athletes and concern for their equitable treatment within NCAA bylaws and federal laws, the Committee on Women’s Athletics decided on an educational approach to aid member institutions.
The CWA at its July 9-10 meeting agreed to develop a toolkit for institutions to use as a guide should a student-athlete become pregnant. Since Title IX states that pregnancy should be treated as a temporary disability, committee members see no need for NCAA legislation at this time.
To hear an audio interview with CWA Chair Janet Kittell, click here.
However, committee members recommend that institutions perform their due diligence in ensuring their policies are compliant with the law. At no time should a student-athlete feel the need to terminate a pregnancy for fear of losing athletics aid, committee members said.
NCAA President Myles Brand had charged the CWA with examining this issue after the media aired stories this spring about student-athletes who have signed agreements with their coaches that could affect their athletics aid should they become pregnant. Some student-athletes reported that their athletics aid was altered, while other reports cited student-athletes having abortions to keep their athletics aid.
During the period of the award, NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 states that institutional financial aid based on any degree of athletics ability may be reduced or canceled only if the recipient becomes academically ineligible; voluntarily withdraws from the sport for personal reasons; fraudulently misrepresents information on an application, letter of intent or financial aid agreement; or engages in serious misconduct.
The CWA intends to consult with other membership committees and experts and develop a toolkit that can be used to educate student-athletes and staff on the legal, medical and treatment expectations for pregnant student-athletes. The toolkit will include best practices from the NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook an recommendations from institutions that already have policies in place.
The NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook recommends institutional policy providing the student-athlete with the opportunity to receive confidential counseling and information about where the student-athlete can access timely medical and obstetrical care.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that pregnant student-athletes frequently turn to the team’s certified athletic trainer or team physician first for guidance. The CWA said the sports medicine staff should be well-versed in the athletics department’s policies and should respect a student-athlete’s request for confidentiality until there is a medical reason to withhold her from competition.
CWA members said the key for institutions managing a student-athlete pregnancy is to ensure that policies regarding all temporary disabilities are treated on a consistent and gender-neutral basis. The CWA also urged institutions to make sure team policies align with school policies when it comes to pregnancy.
For the committee’s official statement on the pregnancy issue, see the Association Updates section at NCAA.org.
In other highlights of the meeting in Charlotte, committee members heard about the development of a Title IX page on the NCAA Web site (www.ncaa.org/titleix). The page is designed as a forum to explore the history and personal influence of the ground-breaking law that centers on gender equity in education. Video interviews and an interactive timeline showcase the lasting impact Title IX has had on the educational system and intercollegiate athletics in the 35 years since its adoption.
Personal testimonials from those involved in various levels of intercollegiate athletics are available.
CWA members also discussed preliminary strategies to help move emerging-sport sponsorship forward.
In addition, Cecilia Slater, the executive director of the WinStar Foundation, updated committee members on a proposed program called Winning Careers in Athletics, which is designed to encourage women undergraduates to pursue careers in coaching or athletics administration. The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference conducted a pilot program in 2006.