Rethinking Disability Inclusion in Intercollegiate Athletics
Examining the NCAA’s Mission and Priorities
Keywords:NCAA, Inclusion, Policy, Disability, Sport, Universal Design
As higher education continues to strive to be inclusive and accepting of all identities, the NCAA must reconsider some of its practices and policies surrounding disability. The NCAA has started to recognize the importance of varying abilities within specific policies and procedures but there is still improvement that must be made to achieve an equitable experience for all athletes. By incorporating universal design into the implementation of the NCAA’s missions and priorities of academics, fairness, and well-being, the NCAA must re-examine which athletes are being excluded by its practices. Within academic regulations, the NCAA must reconsider initial eligibility, minimum credit hour requirements, and progress towards degree. The NCAA seeks to create an atmosphere of fairness; however, the inclusion of varying ability levels is excluded throughout various statements, hiring practices, and how specific sports are played. The NCAA has made well-being a top priority but this cannot be achieved without representation and focus on disability identity. This implies that more funding and resources should be implemented to support the understanding of disability identity development and formation. It is time for the NCAA to rethink how disability can be included thoroughly throughout all aspects of collegiate sports.
Au, W. (2020). Testing for whiteness? How high stakes, standardized tests promote racism, undercut diversity, and undermine multicultural education. In H. Baptists, & J. Haynes Writer (Eds.), Visioning Multicultural Education: Past, present, future. Routledge.
Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (1990). https://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm
Barnard-Brak, L., Lechtenberger, D., & Lan, W. Y. (2010). Accommodation strategies of college students with disabilities. Qualitative Report, 15(2), 411-429.
Bakker, D. (2005). NCAA Initial eligibility requirements: The case law behind the changes.
DePaul Journal of Sports Law & Contemporary Problems, 3(2), 160–191.
Black, R. D., Weinberg, L. A., & Brodwin, M. G. (2015). Universal design for learning and instruction: Perspectives of students with disabilities in higher education. Exceptionality Education International, 25(2), 1-26.
Burton, R. (2021, August 5). The Next NCAA rights fight should be for para-sport athletes. Sportico. https://www.sportico.com/leagues/college-sports/2021/ncaa-rights-athletes-para-sports-1234636237/
Coakley, J. (2014). Sports in society: Issues and controversies (11th Ed.). McGraw Hill.
Connell, B. R., Jones, M., Mace, R., Mueller, J., Mullick, A., Ostroff, E., & Vanderheiden, G. (1997). The principles of universal design.
Crowley, J. N. (2006). In the arena: The NCAA’s first century. National Collegiate Athletic Association
De Brey, C., Snyder, T.D., Zhang, A., and Dillow, S.A. (2021). Digest of Education Statistics 2019 (NCES 2021-009). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.
Department of Justice. (1998). NCAA to alter policy so students with learning disabilities can
play college sports, under Justice Department agreement.
Eccles, S., Hutchings, M., Hunt, C., & Heaslip, V. (2018). Risk and stigma: students' perceptions and disclosure of'disability'in higher education. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 20(4), 191-208.
Falk, T. (2020, May 22). The decline of standardized tests: The pandemic may accelerate the demise of these measures of student achievement. Wisconsin Examiner. https://wisconsinexaminer.com/ 2020/05/22/the-decline-of-standardized-tests/.
Getzel, E. E., & Thoma, C. A. (2008). Experiences of college students with disabilities and the importance of self-determination in higher education settings. Career development for exceptional individuals, 31(2), 77-84.
Individuals with Disability Education Act Amendment of 1997 [IDEA]. (1997). https://www.congress.gov/105/plaws/publ17/PLAW-105publ17.pdf
Klein, S. P., & Bell, R. M. (1995). How will the NCAA's new standards affect minority student-athletes?. Chance, 8(3), 18-21.
Koller, D. L. (2018). The increasing Role of Disability Issues in US Sports Law. In M. A. McCann (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of American Sports Law (pp. 175-194). Oxford University Press.
Miller, W. S. (1997). Ganden v. NCAA: How the NCAA’s efforts to clean up its image have created an ethical and legal dilemma. Marquette Sports Law Review. 7(2). 464-484.
Molbaek, M. (2018). Inclusive teaching strategies–dimensions and agendas. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 22(10), 1048-1061.
NCAA. (2016). Mental health best practices. NCAA.
National Collegiate Athletic Association. (2021a). Mission and Priorities. NCAA. https://www.ncaa.org/mission-and-priorities
National Collegiate Athletic Association. (2021b). 2021-2022 NCAA Division I Manual. The National Collegiate Athletic Association.
National Collegiate Athletic Association. (2021c). Student-Athletes with Disabilities. NCAA. https://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/inclusion/student-athletes-disabilities
National Collegiate Athletic Association. (2021d). Concussion. NCAA. https://www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/concussion
National Collegiate Athletic Association. (2021e). Nutrition. NCAA. https://www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/nutrition
Navarro, K. M., Rubin, L. M., & Mamerow, G. (2020). Implementing student-athlete programming: A guide for supporting college athletes. Routledge.
Navarro, K., & Malvaso, S. (2015). Synthesizing research on the contemporary student-athlete experience: Implications and recommendations for NCAA student-athlete development programming. Journal of College and Character, 16(4), 263-269.
Oriard, M. (2012). NCAA academic reform: History, context and challenges. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 5(1), 4-18.
Park, C. W., & Sinelnikov, O. A. (2016). Changing college students' perception on disability through adapted sports. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 87(S2), A90.
Paul, S. (2000). Students with disabilities in higher education: A review of literature. College Student Journal, 34(2), 200-211.
Petr, T. A., & McArdle, J. J. (2012). Academic research and reform: A history of the empirical basis for NCAA academic policy. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 5(1), 27-40.
Sherlock-Shangraw, R. (2013). Creating inclusive youth sport environments with the universal design for learning. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 84(2), 40-46.
Smith, R. A. (2011). Pay for play: A history of big-time college athletic reform. University of Illinois Press.
Strange, C. C., & Banning, J. H. (2015). Designing for learning: Creating campus environments for student success. John Wiley & Sons.
Steiger, J. (2019). A Comparative Analysis of Education Policy Fragmentation for Student-Athletes with Learning Disabilities. [Master’s thesis, The Pennsylvania State University]. Penn State Electronic Thesis and Dissertations for Graduate School. https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/files/final_submissions/19935
Stokowski, S. E., & Hardin, R. (2014). Stereotype threat in academic experiences of student-athletes with learning disabilities. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 85(S1), A102.
Stokowski, S. E., & Huffman, L. T. (2014). Sport participation motivations of student-athletes with learning disabilities. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 85(S1), A124.
Stokowski, S., Blunt-Vinti, H., Hardin, R., Goss, B. D., & Turk, M. (2017). I know I can learn: The perceptions of NCAA Division I Football College Athletes with Learning Disabilities [Special Issue]. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 95-118.
Stokowski, S., Paule-Koba, A. L., & Kaunert, C. (2019). Former college athletes’ perceptions of adapting to transition. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 12, 403-426.
Stokowski, S., Goldsmith, A., Croft, C., Hutchens, N. S., & Fridley, A. (2020a). The impact of football on student-athletes with education-impacting disabilities. Journal for the Study of Sport and Athletes in Education, 14(1), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1080/19357397.2020.1736488
Stokowski, S., & Ferguson, T. (2020). Stereotype threat and Black football student-athletes with education-impacting disabilities. NASPA Knowledge Communities Publication, 97-99.
Stokowski, S., Paule-Koba, A. L., Rudd, A., & Auerbach, A. (2020b). Student-athlete development and winning success: An analysis of Directors’ Cup standings. Sports Innovation Journal, 1, 36-48. https://doi.org/10.18060/23755
Trainor, K. M. (2005). The NCAA’s initial eligibility requirements and the Americans with
Disabilities Act in the post-PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin era: An argument in favor deference
to the NCAA. Boston College Law Review. 46(2). 432-460.
United States. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Office for Civil Rights. (1978). Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973 : fact sheet : handicapped persons rights under Federal law. Washington :Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of the Secretary, Office for Civil Rights,
U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2009). Higher education and disability: Education needs a coordinated approach to improve its assistance to schools in supporting students (GAO-10–33). Author. http://www.gao.gov/assets/300/297433.pdf
Vargas, T. M., Beyer, R., & Flores, M. M. (2018). Coaching athletes with hidden disabilities. Using universal design for learning to effectively coach all athletes. International Sport Coaching Journal, 5(2), 176-182.
West, E. A., Novak, D., & Mueller, C. (2016). Inclusive Instructional Practices Used and Their Perceived Importance by Instructors. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 29(4), 363-374.
Weston, M. A. (2005). The intersection of sports and disability: Analyzing reasonable accommodations for athletes with disabilities. Saint Louis University Law Journal, 50, 137.
Yost, M. (2010). Varsity Green: A behind the scenes look at culture and corruption in college athletics. Stanford University Press.
Copyright (c) 2022 Sarah Stokowski, Stephanie O'Donnell
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Copyright to articles published in Sport Innovation Journal is retained by the author(s).