I Should’ve Listened: Ineligible Per NCAA

Track. New England Champion, Hall record holder, D1 recruit; Ineligible! Let’s take a trip down memory lane to August 30th, 2019.

Me competing at the New England Championship 400 Meter race. (Scottie Gilden)

Going into freshman year of high school I expected a lot of different things. New people, teachers, and curriculums. The homework aspect of high school is a little bit tougher than it was in middle school. I didn’t think about college or what I wanted to do. Homework wasn’t my priority. Track and field was. When I got my report card from freshman year going into my sophomore year, What I said to my dad was a very bad decision on my part. “Dad it’s fine, I can do better next year, don’t worry about it,” 14-year-old me yelled then stormed off into the other room turning on the Xbox, putting my headphones on, listening to music and relaxing into the state of entertainment. Sophomore year was the exact same Sam Sandler; lying to dad about the homework being done, telling him about tests that I didn’t have this week even though I did. Then later that year. Track and Field started in December and that is what I only cared about. Practice, time trials, and driving to invitational meets whether it’s in New Haven or New York was way better than sitting down and finishing a couple of math questions that could’ve taken 10 min, but ended up taking me 45 min to an hour or I would just never do it. All of a sudden my phone would be taken away for I don’t know how long because of missing assignments or just that my grades weren’t good. I whined and screamed at my dad, slamming doors and throwing stuff that I found standing in my way. 

Hall wins its tenth state championship.

Keeping up with homework and track was a big struggle for me. But I started to do it (kinda). I may be the fastest sprinter this high school has ever had. Outside near the bleachers is a record board for outdoor track. My name is on there plenty of times. But at the end of the day. That didn’t matter one bit. I Ignored my guidance counselors, parents, friends, and coaches about how I can do this on my own. Nationals came around and I ran a 46.82-second split in the 4×4. Columbia University and Penn State called me hours later after my race. I had college visits with UConn, URI, and SCSU. I was getting ready to commit somewhere during the fall of my senior year. But I couldn’t. I had been ruled ineligible by the NCAA because of my Grade Point Average (GPA) in my course classes. I felt distraught. All these accolades and all this attention I’ve received have been tossed away by that one word: Ineligible. I failed myself!

Me winning New England 400. (Karen Sandler)

What I am saying is the real deal. I am trying to help the next athlete. For the basketball player that doesn’t do his homework, for the football player who doesn’t study, please listen to me. You are wrong. Your parents are right. Trust your parents because they have the same goal as you do. They know how to get you there and you don’t.

If you’re reading this and you know what I am talking about. Go to your guidance counselor today and ask, “How I can fix it?” There are tutors and teachers who are available to help you and want to help you. I told myself I didn’t need that and I paid the price. Do not under any circumstances repeat what I did.