The NCAA demonstrated their most important values when they failed to reinstate the University of Miami basketball star, Dewan Hernandez. Hernandez is one of the 19 basketball players implicated in the college basketball scandal due to his alleged relationship with aspiring agent Christian Dawkins. Due to the alleged relationship, Hernandez's eligibility was put into jeopardy. Although there was little to no evidence that Hernandez received an "impermissible benefit" from Dawkins, the NCAA still refused to reinstate him. As a result of the NCAA's decision, Hernandez decided to withdraw from school and prepare for the 2019 NBA draft.
How does an organization that seeks to ensure that every college athlete is able to obtain their degree while playing their sport justify putting Hernandez in the position where he felt it was best to leave school and prepare for the pros? The answer is simple. The NCAA's highest priority lies in the last phrase of their basic purpose.
The NCAA's Basic Purpose
Article 1.3.1 of the NCAA Division I Manual states the NCAA’s basic purpose. The NCAA’s basic purpose is to “maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body, and by so doing, retain a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports.”[i] While this purpose may be noble in theory, Hernandez’s case reveals what is really important to the NCAA. What is really important to the NCAA is the last phrase of their purpose regarding maintaining the distinction between college and professional sports.
Dewan Hernandez's Reinstatement Case
In practice, the NCAA's basic purpose translates to the NCAA stopping at nothing to maintain the distinction between college and professional sports. Even if means failing at maintaining the college athlete as an integral part of the student body and punishing an underserving athlete. Hernandez's case is the perfect example of this.
During the FBI's investigation of Dawkins, an email mentioning Hernandez was discovered. This email put Hernandez's eligibility in jeopardy because it contained a plan where Dawkins was planning to give Hernandez a series of payments over a specified period of time. However, there was no evidence that such payments were ever made, that Hernandez agreed to take the payments, or that Hernandez even knew of Dawkins' plan.
In spite of the lack of evidence, the NCAA still levied a heavy penalty on Hernandez. The NCAA mandated that Hernandez continue to sit out the remainder of this season and forty percent of next season. Why would an organization that truly cares about "maintaining the athlete as an integral part of the student body" force an athlete into a position where his best option is to withdraw from school and prepare for the NBA draft?
The NCAA's Most Important Purpose is to Keep College Athletics "Amateur"
The answer is simple. The NCAA's true values revolve around doing whatever is necessary to maintain a distinction between college and professional sports, even when it is not what is best for the athlete. In spite of the lack of evidence, the NCAA still denied Hernandez's reinstatement. They made that decision for no other reason than to re-affirm the point that college athletes are to receive no benefit outside of what is authorized by the NCAA.
Hernandez's case is unfortunately not the only time that the NCAA has stopped at nothing to make that point, even when it hurt an underserving athlete. Remember the very unfortunate story of Donald De La Haye. De La Haye, was a kicker for the University of Central Florida (UCF) football team. He had successfully monetized his YouTube videos. The NCAA ordered him to stop making videos that featured him as a "student-athlete" or be deemed ineligible. In that case, the NCAA proved that they cared less about maintaining De La Haye as an integral part of the student body and more about maintaining the distinction between college and professional sports.
College Athletics Does not Benefit From the Decision in Hernandez's Case
There is no logical argument that can be made for how the NCAA's decision in Hernandez's case benefits college athletics. How does it benefit college athletics to force a player to leave school early for the NBA draft? Especially in this case where there is no hard evidence that he violated any NCAA bylaws. College athletics gains nothing from this decision. The only benefit is to the NCAA who once again gets to reaffirm its bogus principle of "amateurism."
i]NCAA Manual, (2018), available at http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/D119.pdf.