Barber Shop Talk: Football should not have practice on beer bike
Beer Bike is arguably the most important social event on the Rice calendar. Students call it the best day of the year or even Christmas. From the early wake-up to the Martel sundeck to the water balloon fight to the races, it is a day of celebration and a journey outside of the normal obligations of being a college student.
For the past two years, however, the Rice football team has held practice on the morning of Beer Bike, robbing the student-athletes of the opportunity to enjoy one of Rice’s preeminent traditions. Though the practice ends before the races, much of Beer Bike’s excitement is derived from the pre-race celebration, which the student-athletes cannot attend. This year, with the exception of spring break, spring practices have been held on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It does not seem impossible to move the Beer Bike practice to either Friday or Sunday.
This is a fairly new phenomenon. Former head coach David Bailiff allowed players to attend Beer Bike festivities, while current head coach Mike Bloomgren has not in his first two years at the helm.
It is inarguable that there is some divide between most student-athletes and non-student-athletes. Depending on the sport, student-athletes cannot participate in many O-Week activities, and because of the time commitment to their respective sports (anywhere between 20 and 40 hours per week), some student-athletes are unable to join clubs or participate in residential college events and culture.
Preventing the football team from attending Beer Bike adds to the divide. According to two football players who were granted anonymity, not being able to experience Beer Bike makes them feel less connected to their residential college and the general student body. Additionally, according to those same players, football players who live on campus get very little sleep the night before Beer Bike (and their practice) due to the rest of the students getting up as early as 2 a.m. to start the festivities.
It is important to note that football is not the only team that does not get to attend Beer Bike. This year, members of the men’s tennis and baseball teams did not get to enjoy the event because they had competitions. When a team is in season, it is reasonable that they might have to miss Beer Bike. However, football is not in season. Yes, they have practices three times per week in anticipation of the spring intrasquad game, but the team’s next competitive in-season game is in roughly five months.
Wouldn’t the football staff want their players to be happier and feel like they are at least somewhat connected to the rest of the student body? Rice’s undergraduate population is around 4,000 students. It is not a large state school where student-athletes are a tiny percentage of the population. Student-athletes here are an integral part of the Rice community. It is crucial that they are given every opportunity to feel like they belong. There’s a simple fix for the football staff: next year, do not schedule practice on the day of Beer Bike. Don’t strengthen the divide between the two groups of students. Do the right thing and let your players enjoy one of the best days of the year.
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