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Posted: Tuesday February 1, 2011 11:10AM ; Updated: Tuesday February 1, 2011 11:10AM

Florida president: grayshirting is morally reprehensible practice

Story Highlights

When an institution offers a scholarship, it should honor that agreement

Grayshirting -- extending more scholarships than available -- is dangerous game

Electing not to renew scholarships is technically legal, but morally wrong

By J. Bernard Machen

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Florida president J. Bernard Machen.
Florida president J. Bernard Machen.
UF News Bureau

For most young people, the decision on where to attend college is one of life's most important events. It involves analysis and contemplation by the student and a contract of acceptance (and scholarship in the case of student-athletes) by the institution.

Once this contract is agreed to there is a great joy and it represents the beginning of a new journey for the student. It is a life-changing event.

Imagine the feeling if the student finds out, literally a few months before enrolling, that the institution is backing out of the contract. It is too late in the summer to go back to one's second choice. The student is told he will have to wait until next year. Sorry, but no acceptance, no scholarship. That's it.

In Division I college football this practice is known as "grayshirting" and, unfortunately, there are universities that sanction this activity. The universities, with full knowledge of what they are doing, extend more athletic scholarships than they have. These schools play roulette with the lives of talented young people. If they run out of scholarships, too bad. The letter-of-intent signed by the university the previous February is voided. Technically, it's legal to do this. Morally, it is reprehensible.

Associated with "grayshirting" -- and equally disgusting -- is the nefarious practice of prematurely ending student-athletes' scholarships. Some are just not renewed even though the student-athlete is doing what is asked of him.

Some students are mysteriously given a "medical exemption" which ends their athletic careers -- and makes another scholarship available for the football coach to hand out.

There are, to be sure, some legitimate circumstances that result in scholarship non-renewal but regardless of the situation it is the student athlete who is impacted and the university that benefits.

No university would allow this for the general student body. Imagine the uproar it would cause! What needs to happen in intercollegiate athletics is that universities must accept the moral responsibility to stop and prevent "grayshirting" and its associated actions. The football programs must be accountable and should honor institutional commitments to students. It is, after all, a moral contract.

J. Bernard Machen is the president of the University of Florida.

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