After raising $23,422, a GoFundMe supporting the Binghamton University men’s lacrosse players that lost their house in a fire last Tuesday has stopped accepting donations as of May 3.
The campaign posted a statement on Monday from the BU Office of Legal Counsel explaining the situation. It called the GoFundMe “a truly generous act and a clear example of the kind and caring nature of our student body,” but asked that donations be stopped until it had more information and guidance on the situation.
“The men’s lacrosse team is an NCAA Division I athletics program, subject to the rules and regulations of the University, its athletics conference and the NCAA,” the statement read. “We want to ensure that the efforts to assist the student-athletes affected by this tragic loss do not cross any boundaries of the rules and regulations these student-athletes are governed by. In that regard, the campus administration is working with outside legal counsel and the NCAA to ensure our continued compliance with all applicable NCAA rules and regulations.”
Fifteen BU students lived at the house that burned down, including 14 members of the lacrosse team. Nearly all of their belongings were destroyed in the blaze.
“We are currently working to determine how the GoFundMe site can be used within the rules and regulations for replacement of items lost in the fire,” the statement read. “At this time, we are requesting that the account that has been set be frozen with no additional contributions accepted until we have more information and guidance on this matter.”
The GoFundMe was started by David Hatami, Student Association (SA) vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA) and a junior double-majoring in political science and business administration. Hatami said that he has been in communication with the athletics department for about a week, and that Monday’s statement was meant to update the public on the status of the fundraiser.
“As of now, we’re currently working together to figure out a way to share the funds with the victims of the fire,” Hatami wrote in an email. “I expect that we will be able to sort everything out within a week. I’m talking to the athletics department on a daily basis and plan to do so until the money gets to where it needs to be.”
Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations for BU, confirmed that no NCAA regulations have been violated at this point, as the University has been following appropriate procedures.
“Athletics initiated the conversation with the NCAA and [University Office of Legal Counsel],” Yarosh wrote in an email. “This kind of outreach is standard operating procedure between our compliance office and the NCAA — to ensure that we follow the appropriate process, so that the affected students can receive the donated funds in a manner that won’t affect their eligibility.”
Yarosh clarified that the NCAA requires that the athletics department oversees the distribution of funds to avoid any inadvertent rule violations, which could impact the student-athletes’ eligibility to play.
“Athletics compliance is working with the originators of the [GoFundMe] page to ensure that 100 percent of the funds go to the affected students who lived in the house,” Yarosh wrote.
The NCAA has been embroiled in several past controversies regarding GoFundMe campaigns supporting student-athletes. Without a waiver to the NCAA’s name, image and likeness regulations, crowdfunding efforts are generally impermissible regardless of the circumstances.