As I peruse the sports articles on college football this off-season, it is peppered with the usual information related directly to the crime blotter arrests of various athletes around the country. Apparently we are just fascinated when a college athlete is arrested, suspended, or permanently kicked off of the team. With the proliferation of law enforcement programs on television these days; Law and Order, CSI (multiple cities), Cold Case, etc., perhaps this is just an extension of what we crave to read these days regarding off-season gridiron activities. So I shouldn’t be too dismayed when I read a story that has all the attributes of a courageous young man recovering from an unfortunate medical affliction receiving absolutely no interest throughout the world of college football.
When I read this story several weeks ago, I was stunned that such a medical condition would afflict a healthy young man at the brink of embarking on his future as a student athlete at a major university. Jake Nicolopulos, who was a highly recruited linebacker out of Anderson, South Carolina, suffered a stroke this past year. He was all ready to attend Clemson University as linebacker this coming fall after giving his oral commitment to Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers during the recruiting process this past season.
Instead of lifting weights and training for his upcoming freshman football season, Jake is currently undergoing physical therapy at a rehabilitation center in Georgia. Let’s hope that he has a swift and complete recovery from this unfortunate event as quickly as medically possible. From the scant information that was provided it appears that Jake is working just as hard at his rehabilitation as he did on the football field, no doubt a special young man with an abundance of integrity. I wish him well in his recovery and his future at Clemson University.
In the ultra competitive business of college football complete with the win at all costs mentality highly visible everywhere you look these days, Clemson University honored its commitment to Jake and signed him to a scholarship regardless of what the future holds for him as a college athlete. A college scholarship is not a guaranteed contract by a university; it is something that is renewed as a grant in aid every year (actually every semester) by the institution. Your scholarship can be terminated for a multitude of activities including criminal acts and other moral violations including simply a bad attitude. Another less known fact is you can be released from your scholarship by way of termination for conduct as benign as just poor playing performance.
In this era of limited scholarships to offer by each university, the Clemson Tigers were under no obligation to go forward with this transaction. In fact, another major institution a year earlier actually revoked their scholarship to a highly recruited prospect as a consequence of some moral issues not involving criminal conduct that occurred during the summer after he already signed his letter of intent but prior to actually enrolling in classes for his freshman season. That is why I salute Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers for their decision by moving forward and doing the right thing when they had no legal obligation to complete this transaction.
The classy actions by Dabo Swinney and Clemson University set forth the unique example of a moral principle superseding a legal obligation for all of the proper reasons; notably because it was the right thing to do. How sad that such a warm and heartfelt example of compassion and honor goes complete unaddressed and all but flies well under the media radar screen who choose instead to fill the airwaves with the latest example of misbehavior by a football player who either elected to break a criminal law, or engaged in some other unfortunate activity despite being at a major NCAA Institution on a full scholarship for merely playing a sport.
Just as we all pause during a game when a player is injured on the field regardless of which team he plays for, as Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fans we can all support the efforts of Jake as he progresses in his recovery. Hopefully his journey will be equal to that of Mark Herzlich from Boston College who is expected to return this fall for the Eagles.