More and more student athletes in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) continue to be caught and many even charged with underage drinking. Most recently, Michael Jordan’s 19 year old son, Marcus Jordan, bragged through Twitter about how much partying he had partaken in while he was in Las Vegas. On August 30, he tweeted, “last night was stupid…$35k at Haze. Totals $50k something the whole day”. While Marcus has since retracted his statement, MGM Resorts International is under scrutiny for allowing underage drinking and gambling in their new Aria Hotel.
Marcus Jordan is company to a long list of NCAA student athletes who have recently been caught for underage drinking. In addition to Marcus, who is a University of Central Florida sophomore guard, this summer alone, 11 Notre Dame athletes were arrested on underage drinking charges in July, and Michigan State guard Korie Lucious was charged with drunk driving in August. Among the 11 Notre Dame student athletes charged with misdemeanor underage drinking were seven football players and two basketball players. Of the football players arrested was Joe Montana’s son, Nate Montana, who is a quarterback for the Fighting Irish. Joe Montana played football for Notre Dame as well. Irish head basketball coach Mike Brey responded to media questioning saying he would wait to deal with the arrested players on his team, Tim Abromantis and Eric Atkins, and that their punishment would involve a lot of sweating.
These athletes represent their schools both on and off the fields and are made fully aware of their responsibilities from the first day they step foot on the practice field. Tim Abromantis is the second leading scorer on the Irish basketball team, averaging 16.1 points per game, and now can potentially add misdemeanor to his list of accomplishments. Korie Luscious, who made the game-winning 3-point shot to get the Spartans into the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament in 2010 and was a key force in them reaching the Final Four, now faces potential criminal charges for his blood alcohol content level being at 0.09 percent, 0.01 over Michigan’s legal limit. While many times these athletes simply get a slap on the wrist for their behavior, Luscious could face serious criminal charges for his actions.
With all of these NCAA student athletes being caught drinking underage it makes you begin to wonder what the NCAA and the schools themselves can be doing to thwart this behavior. Recent studies have shown that collegiate athletes binge drink more than the non-athletes on campus (besides the fraternities), with consumption patterns of NCAA athletes continuing to rise. NCAA Division I athletes present the most problematic drinking of all the divisions, with athletes involved in contact sports consuming the highest quantity and in greater frequency than those involved in non-contact sports regardless of gender. Furthermore, problematic drinking rises among athletes while they are not in season.
This brings us to the recent NCAA athletes caught underage drinking during the summer months. While collegiate athletes still make time to binge drink during the season (35%), this amount increases drastically once practices, games, and classes have ended for the summer break. NCAA athletes face tremendous pressures both on and off the field. While non-athletes only have classes and their social lives to worry about, the athletes are balancing the same schedules as the non-athletes, but with practices five to six days a week, weights and conditioning, traveling, and competing in games or matches on weekends. In addition to their jam-packed schedules, these athletes also are responsible for representing their school at functions or charities and doing fundraising activities in their “free time.” No wonder they turn to alcohol to deal with the pressure of trying to live up to their coaches, fans, family, and own expectations. Put all those stresses on top of a freshman athlete who was a super star in high school and is now being benched his first year and it becomes hard not to succumb to binge drinking to deal with the psychological demands.
The NCAA has funded a program called Choices Grant to try to deal with the high risk drinking patterns among college athletes and find a solution to the problem. The main issue is that sporting events and drinking alcohol are one and the same to most spectators. Even to the athletes a big win is celebrated with champagne or beers after the game. When you mix an underlying social trend towards consuming alcohol at sporting events with these young athletes being put into high pressure situations at a young age, the college environment will tend to lead these athletes towards binge drinking. With fewer nights available to party, college athletes make the most of their free time. NCAA athletes face greater levels of stress due to the dual demands placed on them, and when those demands become overwhelming, turning to alcohol is the available and most widely used choice. So to all those NCAA athletes out there, if you are feeling stress about not playing or having problems with your coach don’t turn to alcohol, it will only make the problem worse in the long run.