‘Dancing with the Stars: Athletes’ slugfest: Debating the front-runners & why the NCAA should give Arike Ogunbowale a break [WATCH]

The “Dancing with the Stars: Athletes” cast was just announced on Friday, April 13, but just a few days later there’s plenty to talk about in advance of the April 30 season premiere. Figure skater Adam Rippon has taken the early lead in our predictions with his Olympic teammate Mirai Nagasu not far behind. But the NCAA may have severely handicapped college basketball champion Arike Ogunbowale. Gold Derby editors Daniel Montgomery and Joyce Eng discussed the latest developments with contributors Cordell Martin and Jeffrey Kare. Watch above.

“I like how diverse the cast is in terms of the different sports backgrounds,” says Martin, who was afraid we’d see just the usual assortment of basketball players, gymnasts and footballers. “But in terms of the front-runners, I’m thinking it’s going to be between the figure skaters.” Kare agrees that Rippon and Nagasu might be “neck-and-neck for the finals.”

But Martin has a soft spot for Ogunbowale, who plays for Notre Dame. “That’s my hometown where the college is located so I have personal ties to her,” he explains, but does she have a chance if she can’t promote herself to fans voting at home? As Eng recently reported, “She, the show, Notre Dame and anyone related to Notre Dame cannot promote her being on the show besides stating the fact that she is on the show.” When half of the “DWTS” results are based on viewer votes it might be difficult to win America’s approval if she can’t promote her appearances on the show.

“I wonder if this will lead to a bigger conversation in terms of NCAA players being compensated … which will be long overdue in my opinion,” says Martin. And Kare points out that it’s like an Oscar contender who isn’t “out campaigning for votes,” and we awards-watchers know how hard it is to win an Oscar without shaking hands and kissing babies. Montgomery suggests that, to bring more attention to the NCAA debate about student athletes, “she should just symbolically wear a bag over her head for one dance to symbolize how she can’t make money off her likeness.”

What do you think about the competition, the front-runners and the restrictions on the college basketball star?

Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Monday on ABC. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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