Perhaps the only certainty in college sports is that the NCAA, the governing body for Division I, II and III sports, has made a cottage industry out of denying basic human rights while simultaneously embarrassing itself.
The latest, and certainly not the last, ridiculous ruling was the one-game suspension of University of Houston basketball guard Rob Gray prior to the season opener against McNeese State. Gray’s crime was playing in a church recreation league game over the summer. Apparently, the NCAA justified the suspension because a friend of Gray’s paid the $5 fee which allowed him to suit up for the Second Baptist Church.
You may recall this is the same organization that once ruled a bagel did not constitute an extra benefit, but adding cream cheese — who eats bagels without cream cheese? — was a bylaw violation warranting a suspension.
Gray’s case isn’t the NCAA’s only recent farcical decision. Earlier this year the governing body ruled NC State freshman guard Braxton Beverly must sit out a year because he transferred from Ohio State to the Wolfpack. After Beverly committed to play for the Buckeyes, Coach Thad Matta was fired after 13 seasons in Columbus. Beverly chose not to play for new coach Chris Holtmann after the coach brought in a number of his own recruits. Ohio State did the right thing and released Beverly from his Letter of Intent.
However, the NCAA elected to treat Beverly as a transfer rather than a true freshman because he had enrolled in summer classes at Ohio State to get a head start on the academic year. Student-athletes who transfer are required to sit out a year, a rule designed to keep players from switching schools, in effect keeping the student-athletes enslaved.
NC State appealed the decision and based on what the NCAA characterized as “additional information,” Beverly was granted an immediate waiver after missing the first two games of the season. The 180 — after two denials — proves someone in Indianapolis has common sense, and perhaps a heart.
The irony of the Beverly situation is that Holtmann, who left his prior job at Butler to coach at Ohio State, didn’t have to sit out a year. Nor does new NC State coach Kevin Keatts, who moved over from UNC Wilmington. In other words, coaches receive a get-out-of-jail free card — freedom to move without penalty — from the NCAA, but not players.
Add in the NCAA’s ruling on the egregious University of North Carolina academic fraud case — paper courses and grade changes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies — and the NCAA has accumulated a trifecta of ludicrous or hilarious — take your pick — faux pas this year.
The NCAA was formed in 1906 to protect the rich and powerful, i.e., coaches and schools, and disenfranchise the weak and vulnerable, the student-athletes. Nothing’s changed in over a century nor is it likely to do so in the ensuing 100 years. Next week or next month there’ll be another Rob Gray or Braxton Beverly. You can count on it.
Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a Professor in and Chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.