Keeping Score

Today In NCAA Injustice: A Grieving Player Is Benched

Two family members dying in two months didn't strike the NCAA as hardship

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The NCAA is at it again — this time they’ve gone and benched a grieving player. And this one’s a doozy, even for an organization seemingly blind to the most basic optics.

Under NCAA rules, if you’re an athlete who transfers from one school another, you have to sit out a year (never mind that coaches regularly hop between multimillion-dollar jobs without a break). But athletes can apply for a “hardship” waiver to this rule. Bronx native Kerwin Okoro lost his father and brother last season in the span of just two months. His dad died of a stroke in December, and then his brother died of colon cancer. Okoro decided to transfer from Iowa State, where he played basketball, to Rutgers, in order to be closer to home.

To avoid having to sit out a year, Okoro applied for a hardship waiver. And losing two immediately family members in two months sure would seem to define hardship. But as the New York Post and Newark Star-Ledger reported, the NCAA denied the waiver, likely because the hardship rules apparently just apply to sick family members. Not those who pass away.  Okoro tweeted:

Not a single person would complain if the NCAA let Okoro play right away. Or if Donte Hill, a guard for Old Dominion University, could just close out his college career. The NCAA has ruled that Hill used up an entire year of eligibility because he played eight minutes during a scrimmage while he was a sophomore at Clemson University, back in 2011. Playing days over, because of eight measly minutes in a game that didn’t count for anything.

The NCAA keeps making these kinds of mind-boggling decisions. Let’s just take the last three weeks. First, the Johnny Football affair: News broke that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Heisman trophy winner who, according to one study, was worth $37 million in publicity value to his school last season, allegedly signed autographs for money. He’s the subject an NCAA investigation, and possible discipline. This news shined a brighter light than ever on the fundamental flaw of major college athletics: The revenue sports, football and men’s basketball, are swimming in cash, while stars like Manziel don’t see a sliver.

(MORE: Johnny Manziel Could Change The NFL’s Age-Limit Rule)

To make things worse for the NCAA, ESPN commentator Jay Bilas, a former Duke hoops player and vocal critic of the organization, showed that even though the NCAA is not supposed to sell jerseys with a player’s name on it, when you typed “Manziel” into a search function on ShopNCAAsports.com, guess what jersey appeared on the screen, available for up to $64.95? A No. 2 Texas A&M shirt. Manziel’s No. 2.  After Bilas’ critique went viral, the NCAA temporarily shut down the site, saying it would no longer sell college and university merchandise on its online shop, but “NCAA championship merchandise only.”

Then, there’s the Marine. The NCAA had initially ruled Steven Rhodes — a Marine sergeant who finished five years of active service this summer, and a walk-on football player at Middle Tennessee State University — ineligible this season because he played in a military-only recreational football league for parts of two years. For some reason, that’s against the rules. After yet another public backlash, the NCAA reversed course again; a military vet will immediately be able to pursue his football dream.

While it would be nice if the NCAA’s arcane rules didn’t create such messes, at least it’s cleaning up some mistakes. Let’s hope that habit continues for Okoro and Hill.

(MORE: NCAA Faces Legal Challenges Over Health And Compensation Policies)

58 comments
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dan.st.andre
dan.st.andre

Let's just admit that college sports is a business -- BIG BUSINESS -- and forget the amateur pretense.  Form corporations for each sport and team. Let the corporations pay their staff and players.  Let the schools license their names and mascots to the highest bidder corporation which offers the best deal for the school.  All sorts of payment junk happens now that are behind the scenes and under the table. At least this would get more of it out in the open.

eagle11772
eagle11772

Don't like the NCAA rules ?  Then just withdraw from the NCAA, or abolish it, and set up a new organization.

ksauers1
ksauers1

anything stupid involving Emmert and the NCAA  doesn't suprise me,, I am still trying to figure out how Penn State football players got wins taken away from them when Sandusky had nothing to do with the team during the penalized period,,

NWI
NWI

I agree on the hardship waivers, but i absolutely do NOT agree with paying students any more than they are getting in scholarships now. I do believe the money universities and other agencies make off star athletes and their teams should go to support athletics (non-$-making sports) and academic scholarships and not support multi-million dollar contracts for coaches, athletic directors, or hangers-on. I would prefer Olympics go back to pure amateur athletes, win, lose, or draw. Pipedream. This excess money has created a rat's nest of problems for athletes and fans, alike.

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

All you have to do is follow the money. The NCAA banks on kids like Manziel to bring in the big bucks during football season. College Basketball while a huge money making racket for the NCAA, pales in comparison to college football. These kids are not big time stars, and in basketball, all you have to do is play one year and then you're off to the NBA. In college football, you have to play at least 3 years, and for someone like Manziel, that means 3 years of bowl games, and it boosts TV revenues to the max, for just 13-15 games a season.

ZonkerHarris
ZonkerHarris

Quit.  The.  NCAA.  Dude, she's totally psycho and abusive.  You need a new GF, like, now.

stucarius
stucarius

I blame the colleges for not putting and end to the NCAA. It is an out of control organization operating outside the law and oversight.

It is time to put and end to this organization.



ByteMarx
ByteMarx

If you are part of the problem, you cannot be part of the solution.


BOYCOTT THE NCAA

PickaUraNosea
PickaUraNosea

Incredible.  Must be nice to make all that money in the NCAA offices while pulling decisions like this out of their posteriors. 

sherri13
sherri13

I now understand why college athletes do things behind the NCAA's back. They are a complete joke and totally heartless. Maybe if everyone all of the sudden up and quit the NCAA they would get the hint that they are completely heartless. In a world where most kids could care less about what happens you would think the NCAA would appreciate this young man for wanting to stay close to his family in their hour of great need. Man, am I glad that I don't have any kids that are in college sports. NCAA you are a joke, heartless and totally unsympathetic to anyone's needs except your own.

rick.scott.rodriguez
rick.scott.rodriguez

I don't understand why the big schools from the power conferences just don't secede from the NCAA and create their own governing body.

jBrock18
jBrock18

@Aj_love_ biggest joke of an organization. Finally starting to get their flaws to the public eye

MarkSweetipo
MarkSweetipo

What's mind boggling is that college football is still the most corrupt sport in North America and even gives Fifa soccer and F1 racing a run for its money.  The rules do nothing but cover up for a bunch of good ole boys getting rich on a bunch of kids.

humtake
humtake

Awww...someone who was not accepted to be an exception to the rule.  I know Liberals are crying about it right now, but calm down.  It's really not a big deal.

mrbcool
mrbcool

The NCAA needs to get rid of that stupid rule of sitting out  a year for transfers. What is the point of punishing a student athlete for going to another school! And oh my god! This heartless act of them is just plain despicable!!! 

jkelley
jkelley

Dismantle the NCAA - it's worse than the MOB.

ccisneros6448
ccisneros6448

My mother died 4 years ago and I'm still greiving! How can someone say that death is not a hardship! Sometimes with a death in the family, its very difficult to move forward.  Some people are just heartless and to be perfectly frank...stupid!

MarkAlPha
MarkAlPha

Virginia Tech back in 2000 denied me an academic appeal/waiver to retake and remain in the university my freshman year of college after I missed, and did poorly on the first few exams when I cited the reason for distraction was my grandfather who I was very close to dying just a few months before.  They were very cold about it, basically blew me off, said this is no excuse to be distracted through academics.  I was actually told that "this is not burger king, you can't have things your way" in response.  I ended up doing stellar after this time period.  Point being, this article comes to no shock to me.  The university was very poor in its handling then and I see things haven't changed.  Death's and grieving has a lasting effect.  I will never forget the cold treatment I received.  I will never donate a dollar to the university and speak out citing their behavior/reaction to my case each and every-time I hear this happening to others.  Big universities are big cold cooperate entities there to make money and nothing else, on all levels. 

FloydCampbell
FloydCampbell

Reality of it is it is hard for him yes but there is no hardship ON him because they are dead. He has no added responsibility to or for  them. e.g having to take care of them. Is that so hard to understand.


DeathByCactus
DeathByCactus

Well, that is infuriating. The death of a family member is hard to deal with, very hard. NCAA needs to be beaten for this, I call for a public execution of the people who decided on that waiver.

DanBruce
DanBruce

We need to ban all college athletics for five years except intramurals for students, and let things get back to normal on campuses. The NCAA is simply trying to govern a system that is out of control, ruined by bid money and media, and the result is a mess, as the investigations into how athletics operated at Penn State demonstrated. Let the pro teams create a farm system to provide a playground for the prima donnas. The idea of the student-athlete is a joke.

HenkVandenbergh
HenkVandenbergh

You have to understand that by not sticking exactly to the rules the NCAA would possibly, maybe, lose a few dollars of profits obtained from all the teams. That would completely go against the most important rule, which is amateurism.

MHB
MHB

I agree the NCAA has some crazy rulings like in Okoro's case.  But I am so tired of hearing complaints that student athletes don't see any of the oodles of money schools and the NCAA make from sports.  These athletes are getting nothing - they are getting 4 years of free college, which is easily worth over $100,000.  That's nothing to sneeze at. 

JeffDickey
JeffDickey

@rick.scott.rodriguez Money. The NCAA no doubt has exclusive media deals that preclude those media outlets from carrying college sports programs not "sanctioned by" (feeding money to) the NCAA. Bug sports "needs" that big money, so they stay beholden to the National Cartel Against Athletes.

MaryMitch
MaryMitch

@humtake It's not an exception to the rule. The rules clearly state the NCAA can make this judgement call. The decision that this is not a hardship is unfathomable.

frogandtoad4567
frogandtoad4567

@mrbcool the rule is there to prevent schools from actively recruiting players already committed to a school.  however the rule ends up effectively punishing the player which seems backwards though...

JeffDickey
JeffDickey

@jkelley You imply that there is a meaningful distinction. The possible basis for this eludes me.

MarkAlPha
MarkAlPha

*few months being by the December 2000 when they got around to having the appeal hearing, the exams in question were within 2 weeks of my grandfather dying, me going to funerals etc.  He died 5 days before classes started, which is the material I did poorly on.

desertsandveteran
desertsandveteran

@DaleSzarejko Have you ever bothered to actually learn what communism is?  Or are you just parroting what you think you are supposed to say because you think it gives you a sense of belonging?

TheMomster
TheMomster

Seems to me it should be the National Capitalism-only-for-us Athletic Association

frogandtoad4567
frogandtoad4567

@FloydCampbell  you miss the point of hardship.  you're right he no longer has to care for his family members who have passed away, but ask any sane person, and they would tell you that the hardship of dealing with loss is much greater than the hardship of caring for sick loved ones.  very callous statement by you.

geoff_peterson
geoff_peterson

@FloydCampbell If you think the loss of a father places no hardship on remaining family members to the point where a young adult son could help by being closer to home, you are have either been very lucky in life not to have lost family members or have a very cold soul.

stevemiller100
stevemiller100

@FloydCampbell You, sir, would likely have to study very hard to reach the point of being classified as an im_becile.

alyssa.hewitt9
alyssa.hewitt9

@DanBruce I swam for a team that was nationally ranked in academics and within the sport. And we were D1. We didn't consider ourselves jokes.

It's not just football and basketball that make up college athletics.

JeffDickey
JeffDickey

@HenkVandenbergh Amateurism at emulating humanity, on the part of the NCAA, agreed. But that isn't what most athletes (or fans!) thought the NCAA was for.

alyssa.hewitt9
alyssa.hewitt9

@MHB And what of the athletes who sustain careen-ending injuries, some of which are life-altering to the degree that they have compromised mobility or brain damage?

DanBruce
DanBruce

@alyssa.hewitt9 @DanBruce On a personal level, you and your team mates may not have been a joke, but you were part of a system and culture that is.

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