Did you know the NCAA Can't Force a School to Suspend an Athlete??
Well, I learned something this morning I did not know and unless you are a complete and total Sports Nerd, I'm guessing a lot of other people didn't know either.
I always assumed it was the NCAA saying an athlete was ineligible and therefore suspended from playing if there was a violation of their "Bylaws".
I was wrong....
The only reason I found this out oddly enough was reading about the case of Memphis Tigers freshman Center James Wideman who was declared "Ineligible" by the NCAA because of some money that changed hands a couple years ago allowing Wideman's family to move from Nashville to Memphis and play basketball for then local High School Coach Penny Hardaway.
Yes, the same Hardaway who became the coach at Memphis last season and now is Wideman's coach in College. At the time--the NCAA ruled Hardaway was a "Booster" and there was a ruling back in May exonerating everyone (later ruled a mistake by the NCAA). For reasons not made clear, the issue resurfaced and the NCAA changed their minds on October 31st.
HOWEVER....the University decided they would not act on the NCAA's change of heart and went immediately to court to get a Temporary Restraining Order which will be eventually heard in court, but not likely before the season ends.
As multiple reporters descended on Memphis looking into the minutia of the issue--it is revealed the NCAA can only make "Recommendations" about what to do should the agreed upon rules be violated.
I know for some this is a "Duh" moment, but what I did not realize---it's up to the University President or a Chancellor to suspend an athlete. According to an attorney interviewed by The Athletic (paywall) if the University denies the NCAA request, the only option for the NCAA is to investigate and prove a "Major Infractions" case against the school.
The attorney, Richard Johnson goes on to say the NCAA will have to appeal the TRO and argue they are the ones who get to decide what the definitions are within their bylaws which is apparently a "Misnomer" since it is decided by the member institutions. This to me, is utterly fascinating and raises a ton of questions.
The biggest one: Why is Ohio State holding out star Defensive Lineman Chase Young? Young could be the difference between winning a title and not. The incident he got pinged for is minor at best and he resolved the issue by repaying the loan he admitted taking. It should be "Case Closed".....
Ohio State could EASILY say, ok, he sat out a game, he's playing now. Yet they aren't.....Why?
Listen---this all could be a game-changing moment much like the potential for athletes to profit off marketing rights. Sure, it opens a can of worms that may create problems down the road and may allow the "Wild-West" recruiting of the past to return. But it all is a legit issue.
Like most casual sports fans, I just assumed if the NCAA said "Do something", schools had to do it. If we think about it just a little bit---yeah, it makes sense. It's not like the NFL or NBA or MLB who have finally authority in player disputes on a professional level. The NCAA was formed to administrate the rules agreed upon by school presidents and athletic directors. If those same presidents and athletic directors decide they don't agree with the enforcement of the rules, it's ultimately their choice.
I for one can't wait to see if anyone else will follow Memphis's example.
Ohio State President Michael Drake, the ball is in your court......