Finding security after tragedy
- May. 10, 2011
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Late in February, Thomas Robinson, 6-foot-9 sophomore forward for the men’s basketball team, towered over the media in the hall connecting the locker room to James Naismith Court of Allen Fieldhouse. He held his blue and white Adidas shoes and smiled at questions reporters asked him.
When asked if he talked to his 7-year-old sister Jayla every day, he laughed and said yes, adding that she had told him she got her first valentine.
By the end of the season, after the sudden death of his mother, the questions about his sister began addressing life-changing issues. Should he leave Kansas for the NBA? What would be best for his sister? What next, another year at Kansas or an ESPN-projected 23rd pick in the NBA draft? Which would be better for his family? Big questions for a 19-year old, especially one who lost his mother and grandmother in the period of three weeks earlier in the season.
Robinson has heard arguments about athletes wanting to be paid.
“I feel that we’re definitely more than taken care of,” Robinson said, “but it might not be that way at other schools.”
And he has a point. Kansas is one of the few schools that earns more revenue than its expenses. Still, some coaches, including Self, think that in a case like Robinson’s, the NCAA should make further strides in its effort to accommodate student-athletes with extreme need, seeing that they do not get any of the revenue that keeps Kansas Athletics in the black.
“I do think there are certain situations where it would be nice for individuals such as Thomas, who have absolutely zero source of financial support other than what the federal government would give him through the Pell Grant that there could be some adjustments made where you could appeal to receive some sort of benefit or financial assistance,” Self said.
The NCAA did allow the University to cover expenses for Robinson and his teammates to fly to his mother’s funeral, but, there is no assistance from the NCAA beyond that.
“There is no help after the immediate deal,” Self said.
Even so, Robinson ultimately decided to stay another year at Kansas. What that says about the support he receives from Kansas Athletics and the community around the University speaks to itself.