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Free-For-All Friday: Talking NCAA Eligibility Decisions, Sanctions and Hypocrisy

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Did they NCAA get it right with their call on spring sport eligibility? Do they ever get it right?

Buffalo v Arizona
This is a picture of Sean Miller coaching in the NCAA Tournament months after being caught on an FBI wire tap taking money from Christian Dawkins and claiming he would pay $10,000 per month to Deandre Ayton.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I genuinely was not sure what day it was when I woke up this morning. That doesn’t make today special, that’s just how things are these days. They are all the same with no commute and no real days off from work thanks to the fact we’re all connected from our homes. But for those wondering, it is Friday and just because there’s some stinking virus keeping us all locked in our homes for weeks on end doesn’t mean we aren’t kicking of a free-for-all.

Let’s do it.

JP: Helloooooo Jerry.

Jerry: Hello and Happy Friday, JP! I hope you and the family are doing as well as can be expected. I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re son is now bringing you “blue” beers, Slim Jims and Beer Nuts every few hours just to make sure you’re making it through the day. You’re living the absolute life.

I’m not sure what you have on your mind inside the sports world, but one thing that I keep chewing on is the NCAA’s decision this week to give all of spring sports an extra year of eligibility but NOT those poor competitors of winter sports because much of their regular seasons were finished. Players of all backgrounds (former, current, professional, etc) have spoken out about this ruling and I have to say, I agree with them:

The last time I checked the “regular” season means absolute SHIT. It’s just a means to an ultimate end. If you don’t get the opportunity to play for a chip, nothing else matters.

Where are you in this argument? As a former DIII stud, wouldn’t you be absolutely furious if this happened during your playing days and you had a shot at winning SOME sort of title? Now imagine you were a DI stud who just competed an entire season in front of thousands upon thousands of people (if not millions) and didn’t make a dime and you didn’t get the opportunity to close your collegiate storybook.

I’m not going to pretend like the NCAA doesn’t have 99 problems (and yes, athletic women is one), but this should’ve been an easy decision. As someone that also dipped his toe in college athletics, YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME. If you don’t get to crown a champion because of a pandemic nobody saw coming, then grant a full redo to all of those players that want to. Leave the door open for returns and run this whole thing back when things are once again safe.

JP: Happy Friday to you as well, buddy. The fam is definitely benefiting mentally from some sunshine in Eastern Iowa this week. Unfortunately, I’m largely still buried up to my eyeballs in real work and have been self-quarantined in my home office better known as our unfinished basement from 6:30am to 11pm. Making matters worse, I’ve managed to come down with something despite going nowhere other than to pick up groceries ordered online a week in advance and sanitizing my hands to the point of extreme dryness. And now all I can think is:

That you, Rona?

So yeah, the blue ones are on hold for a few days.

Now, as for the NCAA’s decision to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes but not winter athletes, I think the NCAA got this one half right. I’m with you that they did the right thing with the spring athletes. Most of these kids had their entire season cancelled while others, like baseball, had the vast majority taken away. It makes sense to let those kids have an extra year like they were promised when they chose to go to a school.

The NCAA also, in my opinion, got it right by allowing the schools to adjust the number of scholarship players and the amount they are giving those kids in scholarship money. While we all think of basketball and football players on full scholarships for 4-5 years, the vast majority of NCAA athletes are on partial scholarships. When you start adjusting the number of players a school can have on the roster and how long they can be there (in some instances, you’ll be seeing 6th year players), it makes sense to allow the schools to have some discretion on the amount of money they want to fork over.

As painful as it is to admit, I like what the NCAA did for spring athletes.

But, when it comes to the winter athletes I think they missed a real opportunity. I understand these kids largely were able to complete their full seasons and granting an extra year of eligibility for them may have really thrown a wrench in recruiting, scholarship limits and school finances. But the NCAA was able to largely address those same issues for the spring sports and I think they could have found a middle ground that didn’t allow players to effectively play 5 full seasons.

First, there was a chance to allow those who wanted to stick around strictly for postseason play to be started whenever we get some form of normalcy back. Whether that be in late summer or the fall semester, I don’t know. If we get beyond then, you probably scrap things.

The more likely option and the one I think really should have been explored seriously, is allowing those with a redshirt year available to use it on this season given the postseason was cancelled. I understand this doesn’t help a player like Bakari Evelyn who had already used up his 5 years, but the implications for someone like Spencer Lee would be profound. There would be a limited version of those same issues surrounding scholarship limits and such, but it’s much more limited than allowing everyone a full year.

Would that go far enough for you, or are you an all or nothing guy when it comes to extra eligibility?

Jerry: I don’t disagree at all that the NCAA got part of it right, but that seems to be the NCAA’s mantra year in and year out. They only take half measures if they take measures at all. I don’t hate your plan about using redshirts, but I’m sorry, that’s not enough. As you mentioned, some of these guys gave up to 5-years of their lives to being a student- HYPHEN-athlete. Getting to your senior year and playing in your conference tournaments and hopefully the Big Dance for a lot of these players will be their last hurrah before they start working in the real world with the rest of us. For a bunch of dudes sitting in their Ivory Towers to say that because they played their regular seasons and that’s enough is absolute bullshit.

To me, the NCAA doing that basically tells me that Cinderella’s and One Shining Moments only really matter when they’re brought to you by Chase and IBM. They don’t give a shit about these kids. They only care about the bottom line. Who gives a rip if they didn’t get to play in tournaments. Who cares that they didn’t have their Cinderella moments, because damnit, the NCAA didn’t get their pay days!

I’m sorry, but those winter athletes did not finish their seasons because of a PANDEMIC. Something that is effecting the entire world and while companies all over the greater United States bend the rules to help people, the NCAA decided that they wanted their rent. It’s honestly disgusting. There are plenty of ways to figure out this situation with scholarships and waivers and redshirts, but the NCAA didn’t want to bother figuring it out on their new WFH schedules. They probably have to many folders full of players that got slipped an extra $100 from their uncle that they need to investigate instead.

JP: I think we can certainly agree the NCAA has a long history of caring about nothing other than continuing to make as much money as possible at the expense of being incredibly hypocritical. And to your point, they’re more concerned with taking a stance on what sorts of benefits can be provided to student athletes while they’re all off campus than they are actually doing anything about the programs who have been caught on tape blatantly cheating. It’s absurd.

Siena, former home of our very own Fran McCaffery, was just put on a 3-year probation and their former coach, Jimmy Patsos, was given a 3-year show cause because he had an assistant provide long-distance car rides to some players and was found to have given players between $60-100 on a few occasions for meals. Contrast that with Will Wade caught on an FBI wire tap claiming they pay more than the NBA league minimum and making “strong-ass offers” for recruits while getting – checks notes – not a single thing from the NCAA since the school’s own suspension of – checks notes again – 6 games was sufficient punishment. Or Arizona’s Sean Miller, who agreed to pay to Deandre Ayton – checks notes - $10,000 PER MONTH, and is still coaching at Arizona, who by the way, inked another top-10 class in 2019.

Nothing to see here.
Screen shot via 247 Sports

The NCAA is a goddamn joke and it’s sickening. I have little doubt Iowa has had its own issues in the past (Bruce Pearl was an assistant here, you’ll recall), but I also have little doubt Fran has been running a clean program in his time here. There’s pretty clear evidence he’s lost recruits for this very reason. Frankly, it’s frustrating as hell to watch the NCAA trip all over themselves saving programs like Arizona or Kansas or even LSU (why though?) while slapping sanctions on a program like Siena. But it should leave little doubt that when it comes to the decisions regarding eligibility and scholarship limits for spring and winter sports, the only thing that really mattered was the money they could make.

Jerry: ** shakes head in agreement **