After three days and more than $55,000 raised, Washington State University athletics has finally issued a formal statement of support for the GoFundMe account set up on behalf of offensive lineman Riley Sorenson, whose father suffered a debilitating heart attack on his way into the Sun Bowl last weekend.
"From the moment we became aware of the GoFundMe account for Riley, we have been in contact with multiple people to ensure everything is done in the best interest of Riley and his family, while still following NCAA guidelines," said WSU Associate Director of Athletics for Compliance John Lucier. "At this point, with appropriate cooperation of all involved parties, it is permissible for all concerned to contribute to the fund that has been established to assist the Sorenson family."
This is not the fault of Lucier, but it's hard to not be irritated about being told -- like a child -- that "at this point ... it is permissible" to give my money to someone who has suffered a tragedy, but this is the NCAA, and the question always has to be asked, even if it's a patently stupid question as to whether basic human generosity should be "permissible."
Of course, whether it was "permissible" came up almost immediately in the minds of fans who follow this sort of thing, and even WSU wasn't sure how to handle it at first, as the compliance department issued this statement via Facebook on the day the fundraiser was launched:
It is not permissible for WSU Athletics coaches, staff, student-athletes and boosters (including parents of student-athletes) to use a student-athletes status as a platform to raise money for emergency or other expenses for the student-athlete or their family members. A student-athletes name and likeness may not be used under any of those circumstances. Please contact the compliance office with any questions or concerns. #GoCougs
While not referring to Sorenson specifically, it was clear who the statement was directed toward. Of course, that didn't stop Cougar fans from giving generously to one of their own, which put the school in the position of trying to figure out how to make this work.
There is precedent for this; when Miami's Artie Burns lost his mother earlier this year, the university set up a GoFundMe for expenses, stating that "Funds will provide support for funeral, medical, and related expenses. Funds raised in excess of the support needed for funeral, medical, and related expenses will be donated to a charitable cause, per NCAA bylaws."
This particular fundraiser is different from Burns' in that a woman married to someone on the Sun Bowl board set it up. Here's to guessing that WSU's athletics department has now gotten involved with how the money will be distributed such that the NCAA is satisfied. Hooray!*
*He sarcastically typed.
According an update on the GoFundMe site, Riley's dad, Bart, remains in a medically induced coma as doctors try to fight off a pneumonia infection. You can still donate at the page, where the initial goal has been raised from $50,000 to $150,000.
If you haven't yet donated because you weren't sure if the NCAA would say it's OK, your shackles have been removed.