Reggie Johnson was suspended by the NCAA indefinitely for his family allegedly receiving improper travel benefits from a member of Frank Haith’s staff. It should sound like a broken record at this point: family receives impermissible benefits; school and player argue the player didn’t know about them. It’s the same defense that kept Cam Newton from missing any games at Auburn en route to the national championship; it’s the same defense that restored Ryan Boatright’s eligibility earlier this season; it’s the same defense that will make a mockery of NCAA rules if not addressed soon.
Reggie Johnson Is Suspended Indefinitely. But How Long Is That?
First, a disclaimer: I think that the NCAA rulebook is not fair to student-athletes. In this case, we’re probably talking about a coach paying for a plane ticket. Why shouldn’t coaches be allowed to subsidize transportation for families? Don’t give me the “it’s not fair” argument. Nothing is fair in college athletics. Is it fair that some schools sit next to huge reserves of local talent or that some schools can afford top-tier practice facilities, top-tier coaches, and prime time TV exposure? No. But that’s the way it is.
Have you heard this one before? New York Times. John Calipari.
[That’s a favorite of the Twitterati.]
In Wednesday’s online edition of the New York Times there appeared an article written by Harvey Araton about Kyrie Irving attending the live NBA Draft Lottery rank-order show and about how Irving could go as the first overall pick to Cleveland. In the piece, Araton makes a point to mention that, according to Kyrie’s father, Drederick, Kyrie’s decision to leave school after a single college season (one in which he played in a mere 11 games due to injury) did not represent a “long-planned escape from the often unholy alliance of Division I sports and academia.” In other words, the father is asserting that Kyrie isn’t just leaving school early to avoid college nor is Kyrie abandoning his plans for obtaining a degree. The elder Irving is a financial broker on Wall Street, and Araton quotes him as saying, “Everybody in my family has gotten their degrees, their master’s. We value the education aspect of it with Kyrie.”
Calipari Is Characterized As Someone Who Devalues Education Because He Embraces One-and-Done Players, a Logical Fallacy Not Many Critics Will Own Up To
Here is Araton’s next sentence in the article:
“Had they not, Kyrie would have been with John Calipari at Kentucky last season, where [Kyrie’s] godfather, [Rod] Strickland, works as an assistant coach.”
Uh…beg pardon? Let’s make sure we got that straight. Using Araton’s own words, what he said there was, “Had they not cared about the education aspect of it with Kyrie, Kyrie would have been with John Calipari at Kentucky last season, where the godfather, [Rod] Strickland, works as an assistant coach.”
That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season. We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week’s Topic: The NCAA has taken a lot of flak in the last week for its seeming inconsistency in recent rulings involving Cam Newton, the Ohio State football players and Enes Kanter, among others. Give us your ideas on how the NCAA should handle an increasingly complex environment involving the eligibility issues of its student-athletes. Can it be consistent?
Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor
If the NCAA can at least be consistent in attempting to look out for the best interests of student-athletes, while maintaining as near a level playing field as possible for all schools to compete upon, that should be enough. In the Kanter case, it seemed to me that Kanter didn’t do anything inherently “wrong.” He accepted money from a Turkish professional team above and beyond expenses for housing, education and the like, but Kanter never showed any real interest in becoming a professional. If he had wanted to be a professional, he could have been pulling a salary overseas for years now, but he made the commitment to come to the United States and try to compete at the college level. If the NCAA was going to rule with the best interests of the student-athlete in mind, Kanter would have been eligible at some point, after an appropriate penalty and his repayment of whatever additional funds he received. The NCAA is never going to be able to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution to these types of amateurism cases, and comparing the circumstances and motives behind each individual case will never be exact, but if they can consistently rule in a manner protective of its student-athletes – while still protecting the goal of amateurism – they’ll at least be serving their mission.
Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor
Transparency, transparency, transparency. The NCAA’s biggest problem in my eyes is that nobody seems to be able to predict how rules will be interpreted or penalties handed out in a given case. And then when the organization is questioned, they have trouble articulating the nuance and distinguishing between decisions. The only way to combat this is with complete transparency in how their enforcement system works and the decision-making matrix that the NCAA uses to establish guidelines for punishment. If Cam Newton’s situation is indeed different than Enes Kanter’s, and his is different than Derrick Rose’s, et al., then the NCAA needs to inform us as to the specific criteria used to make decisions and then follow those same guidelines in future, similar cases. The way it stands now is entirely too ambiguous, which ultimately creates an appearance of the NCAA enforcement folks playing favorites and impropriety. And isn’t that the exact thing that the NCAA purports to be working for — a level playing field with a fair and just system?
Brian Otskey, RTC contributor
I think it’s impossible for the NCAA to be consistent when it comes to every student-athlete. I know Cam Newton was basically shopped around but I don’t follow college football and don’t know anything beyond that so it’s not my place to comment on that or the Ohio State football controversy. What I do know is that Enes Kanter is a professional athlete. He played for a professional team and received $33,000 above his necessary expenses, according to the university and the NCAA. The outrage from Dick Vitale and others that the NCAA declared him ineligible to get back at John Calipari is ludicrous. Kanter would be ineligible no matter what team he played for and teams knew he was a risk while recruiting him. I can’t blame Kentucky for taking a risk with a potentially great reward but let’s stop with the conspiracy theories about this. When it comes to Josh Selby, that money wasn’t even 15% of what Kanter was paid, though it does seem strange that he’s allowed to pay it back and play while Kanter cannot. The bottom line is that it’s impossible to create one rigid standard for everyone. Each situation should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
The NCAA has issued the final ruling regarding the eligibility of Kentucky recruit Enes Kanter, saying in a statement today that the “new information” issued by Kentucky to the NCAA Reinstatement Committee “did not change the original statement of facts agreed to by the university and the NCAA.” Kanter is therefore permanently ineligible and will not play college basketball. The NCAA statement confirms that this is the final appeal.
Enes Kanter Is Permanently Ineligible To Play College Basketball, According to the NCAA
The “new information” Kentucky based its request for a re-hearing on was the NCAA’s recent decision to let Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy-winner Cam Newton play after it was revealed that Newton’s father had shopped his son to at least one program for around $200,000. The NCAA essentially felt that because Cam evidently didn’t know about any of that, he was free of any guilt and his eligibility was to remain intact. By saying that the “new information” submitted by Kentucky “did not change” anything, the NCAA is saying that they see no parallels between those two situations.
We Ask You -- We Know It's One Game, But Is This Justice?
So, let’s see: Tom Izzo gets busted for a game because he paid someone an honest wage to coach at a youth camp. Cam Newton’s father pimps his son out to at least one school, but Newton is still eligible to play an entire football season. Gotcha.
ESPN’s Andy Katz reports that this was actually finalized on Friday and Izzo got to select which game he sat out, but we still have a question: since the criterion for levying penalties is evidently What Did You Know — or, What Can We Prove You Knew — if Izzo didn’t know that the person he was paying was associated with a prospect, then why the suspension?