If anyone is still wondering why lawmakers are so interested in college athletes' rights, they got their answer last weekend. The NCAA once again demonstrated how unfair their rules are and how they are inconsistently enforced when they declared college football's and men's basketball top players ineligible. Ohio State University's (OSU) defensive end and Heisman Trophy contender, Chase Young, was declared ineligible just ahead of OSU's game against Maryland. Similarly, the University of Memphis (Memphis) men’s basketball center, James Wiseman, was declared ineligible prior to their game against Illinois-Chicago.
A reasonable fan may wonder why the NCAA would declare their top performers in their major revenue-producing sportsineligible? Did they get caught cheating on a test? Did they engage in illegal activity? Most would agree that if the answer to those questions is yes, the players deserve their punishment. However, that is not the case for Young nor Wiseman. Neither of them did anything clearly wrong. They were both declared ineligible for receiving financial assistance. Why would the NCAA declare a "student-athlete" ineligible for receiving needed financial assistance?
The answer is simple. The NCAA's primary motive is to protect the farce of amateurism. For the NCAA, that means making sure athletes are not given any benefit that is not NCAA approved. No matter how dire an athletes' need is. Chase Young's and James Wiseman's cases are textbook examples of the NCAA's commitment to their rules; even when it defies all logic.
Chase Young’s Case
Young was suspended for accepting a loan from a family friend. He reportedly accepted the loan to pay for his girlfriend's trip to watch him play in the Rose Bowl last season. That is right, Young was declared ineligible for getting a loan from a family friend so that someone he cares for could be there to support him. Here is the real kicker: Young repaid the loan in April. The person who gave Young the loan is not a booster nor an agent.
Despite those facts, the NCAA still suspended him. The NCAA felt it right to disrupted Young's potentially Heisman Trophy-winning and record-breaking season to reaffirm their position on unapproved financial assistance. All Chase Young wanted was for his girlfriend to be there to support him while he gave his body to make millions of dollars for others. Young will serve a two-game suspension for taking a loan from a family friend and paying it back. Somehow, the NCAA believes that this is fair and is the right thing to do. It is precisely these type of decisions by the NCAA that makes lawmakers feel the need to get involved.
James Wiseman’s Case
James Wiseman's eligibility issue stems from a rather complicated story. Here is the crux of his eligibility issue. Wiseman's eligibility is in jeopardy due to an $11,500 payment that the current Memphis coach, Penny Hardaway, gave to Wiseman’s mother in 2017. At the time, Wiseman did not know about money. The money was intended to cover moving expenses when Wiseman’s family moved to Memphis.
However, this is not why the NCAA declared Wiseman ineligible. The NCAA declared him ineligible because they determined that Penny Hardaway was a booster due to a 1 million dollar donation he made to Memphis in 2008. The donation was made to fund the school’s Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame. Since the NCAA determined that Hardaway was a booster, the $11,500 that he gave to Wiseman’s mom is impermissible under NCAA rules.
According to NCAA rules, this would make Wiseman ineligible. However, the problem here is that the NCAA knew about the $11,500 payment. With that knowledge, the NCAA declared Wiseman eligible. For some reason, the NCAA has gone back on that decision and declared him ineligible. How is this fair? The answer is that it is not fair. James Wiseman's case reaffirms how inconsistent the NCAA is in its rule enforcement. It is for this reason, that lawmakers have begun advocating for college athlete rights.
Wiseman's Case is not Over Yet as he has Sued the NCAA
Wiseman has sued the NCAA and Memphis. He also obtained a temporary injunction on his suspension that has allowed him to continue to play. On Monday, the case will resume where Wiseman will as for an injunction to continue playing. If Wiseman is successful in this suit it could dire ramifications for the NCAA and their ability to enforce their eligibility rules.
The NCAA Continues to Prove that Legislative Action is Necessary
What point does the NCAA really think it is making by declaring Young and Wiseman ineligible? All the NCAA has done is further make themselves bad an unable to consistently enforce their rules. They have inadvertently strengthened the case for college athlete name, image, and likeness (NIL) compensation legislation. After all if Young had able to profit from his NIL he may not have needed the loan. As coaches' salaries and television revenue continues to soar, the NCAA cannot continue to justify its actions in cases like Young’s and Wiseman’s. The NCAA’s unfairness and inconsistency in its rule enforcement are precisely why lawmakers have gotten involved. Their involvement appears to be necessary.