When Kansas University basketball player Thomas Robinson faced a tragic situation, he was able to lean on teammates and KU’s athletics department for support, both emotionally and financially.
Robinson’s story has been well-told in various media outlets over the past few days. He lost his grandfather, his grandmother and his mother in the span of two weeks. His 9-year-old sister had to make the call Friday night to inform Robinson of his mother’s death.
Kansas Athletics Inc. received permission from the NCAA not just to fly the team to Washington, D.C., for Robinson’s mother’s funeral, which is Thursday, but also to pay all the expenses for the funeral itself.
Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director, said the NCAA makes certain allowances for athletes dealing with a loss in the family. In the past, Kansas Athletics has paid for athletes’ flights home for funerals of family members.
The funds will come out of Kansas Athletics’ general revenue, which comes from donors, television contract revenue and conference payouts, among other sources.
He said he couldn’t recall if the athletics department had paid for funeral expenses or flown an entire team to a funeral for another athlete’s family member before.
“Every circumstance is different,” he said. “In this case, this is the right thing to do. We realize that, and, fortunately, the NCAA does, too.”
Dealing with a death in the family is nothing unusual for many other KU students, too.
“It happens far more often than you or I would like,” said Jane Tuttle, assistant vice provost for student success.
For those students, the office of the vice provost for student success can offer some services.
While KU doesn’t pay funeral expenses for students, Tuttle said her office can help with notifying professors of the student’s absence, getting connected with grief counseling services at KU and seeing if students qualify for additional financial aid that will help them stay in school.
Some students, she said, still find that they will have to leave the university for a variety of reasons; some are overcome with grief, and others can’t afford to stay in school anymore.
For those students, she said, the office helps them with the withdrawal process, and makes sure they position themselves so that re-enrolling is as easy as possible, should they be able to return.
“We can’t promise the world,” Tuttle said, but the office does try to help each student find the best course of action for the long term.