Anti-Dookies rejoiced today as a long-hoped-for NCAA intervention dropped on the Duke program when the NCAA, in an emergency injunction, declared star forward Kyle Singler ineligible to play in the Final Four this weekend. As a result of illegal benefits he took while playing in a summer league in the Research Triangle Park area last year, his collegiate career is now over. We’re still piecing together the details, but reports from both parties (the NCAA and Duke) seem conclusive in the fact that Singler will not play. Here’s the statement from Duke’s media relations representative:
Obviously, we’re very disappointed as to the allegations that the NCAA has made and the timing of this decision. After a several-day internal investigation, however, we have decided to comply and not to appeal this decision as the student-athlete in question has indeed jeopardized his amateur eligibility by playing in the Bojangles RTP Pro-Am last summer and accepting unauthorized gifts while there. Our understanding is that if we do not play him in the Final Four games, we will be in full compliance and will not be held accountable by the NCAA for playing him in previous games this season.
This is obviously a huge blow to Duke’s chances to win the national championship this weekend, but how interesting is it that the NCAA has decided to not hold Duke accountable for the 38 other games Singler has already appeared in this year if they simply hold him out this weekend? Would Memphis have gotten the same treatment with Derrick Rose on the eve of the Final Four in 2008? Is the NCAA setting yet another precedent in how they handle ineligible players — i.e., if you discover it in time, we’ll cut you a deal on the games he’s already appeared in?
Additionally, RTC has done some further investigation and discovered that the RTP Pro-Am is an annual event where many of the former and current players from the area convene for several weeks in July to work on their games in a structured environment — Jerry Stackhouse, Chris Paul and Grant Hill are but a few of the marquee names that appeared last summer. Like any event of this nature, there are also bags of swag available to the players who agree to play, and the 2009 booty included coupons for free food to Bojangles (a local fast-food chain), new iPhones/iPods and various Nike-sponsored bags, shoes, hats and t-shirts (the shoe giant is one of the primary sponsors of the event). The NCAA has been clear in the past that such events are off limits to NCAA athletes such as Singler, but supposedly an enterprising UNC fan took cell phone photos of Singler playing in the games and holding a bag of the above gift items afterward. Quite literally, holding the bag.
Coach K faces a monumental task in preparing his team for their semifinal tilt against West Virginia in just over 48 hours without their versatile forward, but he’s performed miracles before on this stage, so we wouldn’t put it past him to find a way to overcome this major hurdle. The AP has been the only media outlet to get through to him for an interview, and his quote on the matter was succinct but telling about his general feelings on the matter: “Happy April 1, everyone.”