A gay college athlete who was disowned by her parents will be allowed to keep donations made through a GoFundMe campaign and retain her eligibility, after the NCAA initially ruled she would have to return the money.
Emily Scheck, a Division I cross-country runner at Canisius College, was left abandoned by her family this past August after her mother found a photo of Scheck with her girlfriend. She called Scheck disgusting and said she could either move home and attend conversion therapy, or be cut off.
“I really didn’t know how someone should respond to that,” Scheck told Outsports.com.
Scheck chose to stay at Canisius, where she was already moved in for preseason. Her parents cut her off, forbid communication with her siblings and her father drove to Canisius’ Buffalo campus to remove the license plates from Scheck’s car – since her parents had been paying the insurance.
He also filled the trunk with her childhood belongings. Her car remains idle in her driveway.
Scheck was left without money for food, textbooks, tuition or car insurance. The sophomore attends Canisius on a partial athletic scholarship, but a full semester’s tuition is more than $18,000. She currently works two jobs – at Wegman’s and a work-study position on campus – to try to stay afloat.
“At the start it was definitely tough,” Scheck said. “I was lucky to be in preseason the first couple of weeks because coach could get us meals in the dining hall.”
She added that she’s borrowed books from her friends to study for classes and relies heavily on her girlfriend for meals.
After struggling like this for the last few months, despite some efforts from her coaches and faculty administrators, Scheck’s roommate set up a GoFundMe explaining her situation and asking friends to donate what they can.
“Any amount of money will help her to buy groceries, finance to finish school, or cover insurance. Help her focus on school instead of working to make ends meet,” the friend wrote. “No one thought that her coming out would have such a drastic effect. This should not be happening in today’s society. Help her feel accepted. Help her feel like herself.”
The page’s initial goal was $5,000 and, after two days, had already raised $25,000.
Scheck was then contacted by an NCAA compliance officer at the school. The NCAA instructed Scheck either to return the money and keep her eligibility or keep the money and leave the cross-country team, per their rules.
Unable to afford a lawyer and without any other financial options to make ends meet, Scheck kept the money and left the cross-country team.
“It would run the risk of it not even happening,” Scheck said of the option to remain on the team and fight the NCAA to keep the money. “There was no confirmation that we would even have our eligibility reinstated, or that I would get any financial help. There was no security.”
Matt Reitnour, the Canisius’ spokesperson, released the following statement to Outsports:
After a review by the College’s compliance staff, and following consultation with the NCAA, it was determined that the online crowdfunding webpage was organized and promoted in a manner not permitted under NCAA legislation. Canisius informed the student-athletes that it would be necessary to end the online fundraising effort and work with the website host to return the donations received in order to preserve the student-athlete’s eligibility.
Scheck ran in the NCAA North-Eastern Regionals on November 9. On November 13, Scheck’s roommate posted on the GoFundMe page that both she and Scheck had left Canisius’ running program, due to the fundraising.
On Friday, OutSports’ Cyd Zeigler reported that the NCAA had reversed its course, allowing Scheck to keep the outside donations while maintaining her athletic eligibility. Canisius released the following statement:
Canisius College received clarification from the NCAA that Emily Scheck can retain her eligibility and continue to receive GoFundMe donations that assist her with living and educational expenses. The NCAA staff worked cooperatively with Canisius College to provide guidance that the fundraiser can continue, with school monitoring. NCAA rules allow a school to assist a student-athlete with a fundraiser after a significant life event occurs.
Canisius and the NCAA will continue to work together in support of Emily. She is a member of the Canisius family and we will to do whatever we can to assist her.
Scheck is currently working on obtaining the additional funds to legally emancipate herself from her parents.