Monday, November 15, 2010

Once Again, The NCAA Proves to Be Clueless

Anyone who follows NCAA athletics should have realized by now that the NCAA is as clueless and unfair an organization as there is in any realm. Not only do they make exorbitant profits off the “student-athletes,” but they then turn around and rule with an (often unfair) iron fist. The latest saga in the unfair and ridiculous NCAA rulings might have been overlooked due to the rising storm brewing in Auburn, Alabama. The University of Kentucky had one of its best basketball players ruled ineligible in what might be the most ridiculous NCAA decision to date.

Let’s go through a quick bit of background on the situation before I launch into the meat of the analysis. Enes Kanter is a Turkish basketball player who came to the U.S. for the sole purpose of playing college basketball. He originally signed with Washington, but decommitted and ended up at UK. Kanter played three years for a European club team that had professional players on it, and he was given funds to cover expenses directly related to competition. However, the NCAA determined that he received $33,033 in funds above what his actual expenses were. These funds were used to pay for tutors and educational expenses while the remainder was kept in the account in case it needed to be repaid.

When evaluating a player’s amateur status, the NCAA has generally sought to determine whether the player had the intent to be an amateur. If Enes wanted to be a professional, he would have played on the Turkish national team that lost to the United States in the World Championship this summer. The members of that team split a pot of $18 million and each were given a condominium. Now, if someone intended to be a professional, why would they skip out on that sweet deal? Why did Enes not just sign a contract with the team? The answer is obvious. He wanted to play college basketball and was determined to keep his amateur status intact. It’s not as if the U.S. offers a better route to the NBA than Europe because every year multiple European players go in the draft.

The NCAA based its ruling on the $33,033 that it decided was in excess of Kanter’s actual expenses. Let’s think about that for a second. If this had occurred in the U.S., he could have gone to a private high school and gotten an athletic scholarship that paid for competition expenses, and wait for it, educational expenses. That would be perfectly acceptable for the NCAA. So, because it occurred in Europe where the basketball system is set up much differently than the U.S., Kanter is ruled ineligible thanks to him paying for his educational expenses with the money given by the club team. Makes a lot of sense doesn’t it? The Kanters were even willing to pay back the money that was left over AND the money they spent on his education, but no, the NCAA wanted nothing to do with it. Sell a jersey to an agent? Fine. Just pay it back. Get money from a European basketball team for education IE a scholarship? Permanently ineligible!

Enes Kanter still has a chance to play basketball for the University of Kentucky, and that is through an appeal. The appeals committee is made up of representatives from member universities, and they are more likely to take fairness and equity into account when making their decision. There should be no reason for them not to overturn the NCAA’s eligibility decision, but I’m not getting my hopes up that justice will prevail. So goes the long lasting saga of NCAA unfairness.

This story will provide a much more in-depth look at the situation.

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