The UCA athletic department changed its drug policy over the summer in hopes of encouraging players to make wiser decisions about banned substances.
Banned substances include marijuana, cocaine metabolites, phencyclidine (PCP), amphetamines and opiate metabolites. Other substances may be tested as well.
Last season, at least four basketball players missed games because of suspensions from testing positive or being caught with banned substances.
Four football players missed games at the beginning of the season because they tested positive at the end of the semester last year, according to an anonymous source close to the team.
According to the 2012-13 UCA athletic handbook, on the first offense of testing positive for a banned substance, “student-athletes were suspended for the first 15 percent of scheduled in-season competition in his intercollegiate sport.”
The athlete would be subject to additional follow-up testing for the next 12 months.
If an athlete tested positive a second time, he would be suspended for the first 35 percent of games and the third positive test would result in the athlete being suspended as a participant from any athletic department-sponsored activity.
In the new policy, athletes are required to watch a use and abuse educational video and sign a warning notification after first offense.
A second offense would result in an athlete losing 35 percent of his annual scholarship and a suspension for the first 35 percent of scheduled in-season competition in his intercollegiate sport.
Athletes without scholarships will be suspended 50 percent of scheduled in-season competition. Exhibition games are excluded in the offenses.
Athletes who test positive would still be subject to follow-up testing for the next 12 months.
On the third offense, regardless of whether an athlete has a scholarship, the athlete will be suspended indefinitely. Athletes with scholarships would lose their scholarships completely.
Athletic Director Brad Teague said the policy change is good and helps encourage athletes to abstain from using banned substances.
“We wanted to tie a reduction of scholarship aid to the penalties,” he said. “This is significant and hopefully a great deterrent.”
Because the new policy will tie scholarships in with penalties, Teague said adding a warning was the best thing to do.
In section 3.1.1 of the 2012-13 athletic handbook, the athletic department said it would randomly select a minimum of 10 percent of UCA’s athletes from each sport during the academic year to drug test.
Any student athlete listed on the NCAA or institutional squad list can be tested, which includes those who are actively participating, those with medical disabilities, red-shirted student athletes, partial and non-partial qualifiers and those who have exhausted eligibility but are still receiving athlete related aid.
Under the new policy, up to 20 percent of all teams may be tested.
Junior tennis player Kelsey Williams said that this year’s policy is tougher.
“They actually made it tougher in the sense that [the]first time you just get a warning and you lose the privilege of getting randomly selected; you have to get tested each time,” she said.
Kelsey said the tennis team has never had a problem with drugs on the team.
Because the athletic department can decide the punishments for athletes testing positive through under the NCAA guidelines of the NCAA, this gives other schools in the Southland Conference the ability to have differing policies.
For example, Stephen F. Austin University has different tiers of tier levels after a student athlete tests positive. Each level has differing actions such as like: being subjected to attending attend mandatory counseling sessions and increased frequency of testing. and the athletes punishment will be subject to the coach’s punishment. The athlete’s punishment would be based on a coach’s decision.
Because the punishments have become more strict, players across campus said they think testing positive will not be much of a problem anymore.
Senior men’s basketball guard Ryan Williams said he thinks the new policy is will be more effective.
“It creates a different fear in the students,” he said. “With just taking away a few games, athletes might just tell a parent or someone that they have an injury, but with the second fail now you have to give up some of your scholarship. There is no way to get out of telling your parents the truth.”
Senior men’s basketball guard DeShone McClure said the policy is good for university athletics. he thinks the policy is a good thing.
“I feel like it’s no worries for the people who don’t do it and [for]the people who do, it’s on them to deal with their consequences if they get caught,” McClure said. “My teammates are all bought into winning, so that’s the least of our worries.”
McClure also said he thinks it can be a good change for the programs around campus.
Senior women’s basketball center Courtney Duever said she thinks the second offense is worse because student athletes you get their your scholarships taken away.
Duever said the new policy won’t affect the women’s basketball team.
“We have never had problems in the past and we won’t in the future,” she said.
Senior cross country runner Erika Setzler said she doesn’t think the new policy will affect the cross country team.
“We’re all really smart about how to treat our body,” she said.
Even with the changes in the departmental policy, coaches still have a say in the punishment of their players.
Women’s Soccer Head Coach Jeremy Bishop said that with any discipline issue they soccer coaches look at each situation and decide how to best handle it.
“Every situation is different, with their own set of circumstances,” he said. “Once the situation is as clear as it can be we put together a plan that will help improve the student athletes chances of coming through it more responsible and better prepared to move forward in a positive way.”
Bishop said that consequences within the plan can range from extra activities and requirements for the student athlete, suspension(s), or to removal from the team.
McClure said that the basketball coaches established their take on suspensions at the beginning of the season.
“Coach Finley has a hold on that type of stuff this year,” he said.
McClure said that the coach’s punishment will depend on the situation, but that the team is on a mission so they don’t count on having any.
Junior men’s soccer midfielder Logan Miller said the soccer coaches enforce pretty strict rules for their players.
Men’s soccer had one player test positive for drugs in the spring and one this fall. The player [who was the player??]who was caught in the spring was suspended for the first three games of this fall, since it was out of season and the player caught who was caught in the fall was suspended for the rest of the season, because the offense was during season.
Miller said that the coach’s coaches’ decision shows that they are more interested in growing and maturing the person, instead of just cutting them from the entire program.
“They feel a responsibility to better the person instead of just bailing on them without helping them at all,” he said.
The change in the policy took effect before the fall semester.