The NCAA has proven time and time again they are ineffective to the point that they are the flat-out worst governing body in the world of sports.
Last week, the NCAA decided to label Ohio State football’s star defensive end Chase Young and Memphis basketball’s star center James Wiseman as ineligible for accepting money from third parties.
If there’s one thing the NCAA cares about, it’s keeping money out of the hands of the very people that make the association so rich.
Young is currently a Heisman Candidate, leads the nation in sacks and is a consensus first-round prospect for the 2020 NFL Draft. Wiseman was the No. 1 recruit out of high school and is projected by many to be the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Young sat out for the Buckeyes’ Saturday afternoon game with Maryland, which they won handily. Conversely, Memphis fought the NCAA’s ruling by obtaining an emergency court order that temporarily reinstated Wiseman.
The NCAA technically doesn’t have the power to force Wiseman to sit out, but if they can prove that Memphis knowingly played an ineligible player, Memphis can face some pretty serious sanctions.
Most schools take the NCAA’s “advice” in these matters to avoid penalties like fines, suspensions, firings, loss of scholarships and playoff bans down the road. This sounds a lot more like coercion than advice, doesn’t it?
At this point, it’s hard to tell whether Ohio State is smart for complying, or if Memphis is smart for fighting.
We saw with the University of Missouri that complete compliance and transparency won’t necessarily save you. While they were investigating Missouri, the NCAA said they displayed “exemplary cooperation.” Then why did North Carolina get away with basically the same violation the year before?
Both schools were investigated within the last two years for giving their student athletes illegitimate educations. UNC’s administration created fraudulent, cakewalk classes for student athletes to take to maintain academic eligibility. Missouri hired “tutors” that did all of the schoolwork for 12 student athletes. Both schools cooperated with the NCAA to their fullest power.
So why did Missouri face a 2019 postseason ban, while UNC got off scott-free? There’s no method to the NCAA’s madness.
My point is, the NCAA has a track record of inconsistency in their sanctioning process. So, Ohio State’s compliance doesn’t put them in any better position than Memphis.
The difference between Ohio State and Memphis is that No. 1 ranked Ohio State doesn’t need Young on the field right away and will be fine with keeping him out until the postseason. They aren’t going to risk playing him for these relatively meaningless regular season games if it could result in harsher penalties later on.
Memphis, on the other hand, has the best recruiting class it will probably ever have with Wiseman as the headliner. Plus, college basketball is largely a one-and-done program before players go pro. They want Wiseman on the court, and they want him now.
So, what did Young and Wiseman specifically do wrong to get themselves in hot water with the NCAA?
Young accepted a small loan from a family friend for a plane ticket for his girlfriend and possibly members of his family to fly out and attend their 2019 Rose Bowl game against Washington. Though the price of the loan is currently unknown, the plane ticket(s) is/are the only known benefit that Young received from the friend. The approximate value of one of these tickets is just $200 to $325, and he paid the loan back in full.
Is the NCAA seriously going to keep a Heisman Candidate on the nation’s best team off of the field for this small of a paid-back loan? It seems like they will.
Young is likely to face a two to four-game suspension. However, there is a standing precedent that could get the suspension down to one game. In 2017, Kentucky linebacker Denzil Ware took $1,628 from an agent and UK suspended him themselves for one game, which the NCAA deemed acceptable.
With three regular season games remaining on the schedule, the length of the suspension is important. This decision will reportedly be made by the NCAA sometime this week.
Wiseman, on the other hand, accepted more than just a few plane tickets, and it didn’t come from a family friend.
Memphis’ second-year head coach Penny Hardaway paid Wiseman’s family $11,500 to move from Nashville to Memphis in 2017 so Wiseman could live closer to his sister. At the time, Hardaway was an assistant coach for a Memphis high school and was unaffiliated with the University of Memphis.
“Nobody would’ve dreamed Penny would be the coach in 2019. He helped somebody out when he wasn’t the coach, not knowing he’d be the coach,” Wiseman’s attorney told The Athletic.
This is where it gets complicated. Hardaway played college basketball for Memphis in the early 90s, and donated $1 million to his alma mater in 2008. According to Wiseman’s lawyer, the NCAA has labeled him as a “booster,” and they define that term as, “representatives of the institution’s athletic interests.”
It appears the NCAA’s case against Wiseman has legs, but wouldn’t it make more sense to punish the university or Hardaway with a suspension or fine rather than Wiseman? Even through the NCAA’s eyes, Hardaway is the one that “enticed” a player to come to his team (even though it really wasn’t even his team yet) via payment.
Instead, the NCAA will insist on pushing to keep the kid off the floor. Though they labeled Wiseman as ineligible, Memphis is going to keep on playing him.
After the win over the University of Illinois-Chicago, “He [Wiseman] will continue to play,” Hardaway said.
Whether or not Young or Wiseman play out their college careers, they will be eligible for enormous pay days when they likely go pro next year. While I’m sure that they want to be out there competing for national championships, their professional futures won’t be affected.
Last season, Ohio State’s previous star defensive end Nick Bosa voluntarily sat out the end of the college season to preserve his body for the NFL. He was drafted second overall in the 2019 NFL Draft and signed a $34 million contract with the 49ers.
If the NCAA wants to keep Wiseman off the floor too, then that will make it three of the country’s best 10 prospects that won’t play college ball. LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton passed on the NCAA and are playing their one season out of high school professionally in Australia to obtain NBA eligibility next year.
So, is the NCAA really shooting themselves in the foot by preventing these stars from playing? Fans want to see the best talent out there, and the fans are the customers to the NCAA’s multi-billion dollar industry, so I’d say so.
The NCAA just can’t seem to do anything right in the PR department. Between these unnecessary punishments and clamoring to ensure collegiate athletes don’t see a dime of their money, the NCAA just appears desperate to flex. They’re weak and don’t want people to know it, so they’re lashing out wherever they can.
It doesn’t matter to them who the real victims are. Even if it’s themselves.