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August 31, 2010

McCready: NCAA's ruling on Masoli a great injustice

OXFORD, Miss. -- Allow me to share a quick personal disclosure: I don't really like college football.

The multi-million-dollar industry - let's call it what it is and cut the Boy Scout crap out now - is the ultimate sausage factory. Sure, the product served up on Saturday afternoon is tasty, maybe even downright addictive.

Once you have an inside view of how the sausage is produced, however, your appetite takes quite a hit.

Look no further than here in Oxford on Tuesday afternoon, where Jeremiah Masoli's residence waiver request to the NCAA was denied on the eve of the Rebels' season-opener against Jacksonville State. Regardless of what you may feel about the former Oregon quarterback personally or what you feel about the NCAA bylaw that allowed him to transfer to Ole Miss, Tuesday's ruling was a joke.

The NCAA, playing the dual role of God and the morality police, essentially ruled that Masoli's waiver request violated the spirit of a bylaw that allows a student-athlete who has graduated from one institution to transfer to another institution without being subject to transfer rules provided that the student-athlete enroll in a graduate program that is not offered at the original institution.

Masoli met and meets every one of those requirements. He graduated from Oregon, was accepted into Ole Miss' graduate school and began pursuing a Master of Arts in parks and recreation management, a graduate program not offered at Oregon.

The NCAA, in denying the request Tuesday, said, in part, that Masoli "was unable to participate at the University of Oregon based on his dismissal from the team, which is contrary to the intent of the waiver. The waiver exists to provide relief to student-athletes who transfer for academic reasons to pursue graduate studies, not to avoid disciplinary measures at the previous university."

The intent of the waiver? Seriously? So now institutions are asked to not only know the rules numbered in the massive NCAA manual but they are also required to know the unwritten, unspoken intent of said rules?

Secondly, the NCAA ruled that there was a discrepancy between when Oregon dismissed Masoli and when Masoli began to consider transferring. For the record, Masoli pled guilty in March to misdemeanor burglary and was suspended for the 2010 season by Oregon coach Chip Kelly. In June, after Masoli was cited for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, the second-team All-Pac 10 quarterback was dismissed from the Ducks' program (but not from Oregon University, which bears noting). Masoli completed his degree requirements at Oregon in June, applied to Ole Miss on July 24 and was accepted.

"Regarding the time discrepancies with the recollection of the institution and Jeremiah, the staff attempted to determine when Jeremiah started thinking of a transfer," Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone said. "I think this is a difficult task for anyone, even David Blaine, to try to accomplish."

It's a good line from Boone, but it really shouldn't matter. Masoli graduated from Oregon and chose to transfer to another institution that offered a graduate program not offered in Eugene. The rules allow him to do that. Of course, the intent of those rules apparently doesn't. If the NCAA truly believes the intent of the rule was violated, it should change the rule forthwith. Instead, the NCAA chose to arbitrarily interpret the spirit of a written rule that Ole Miss applied and followed during the process. That, simply, is wrong.

Ole Miss is appealing the decision, and an NCAA Subcommittee for Legislative Relief, an independent group comprised of representatives from NCAA member colleges, universities and athletic conferences, could deliver a final answer as soon as Friday and no later than one week. I'll kill the suspense now; Ole Miss/Masoli will lose said appeal. The Pittsburgh Pirates have a better chance of winning the N.L. Central this season.

Maybe I'll be wrong there; a source said Tuesday afternoon that he estimated the aforementioned appeals committee provides relief as much as 40 percent of the time. However, it's my opinion that the NCAA simply didn't like the taste of Masoli's transfer to Ole Miss and simply wasn't going to swallow it.

So in my opinion, sometime in the next few days, the door will be slammed shut on Masoli and he'll be left to decide whether he wants to redshirt (he's a walk-on at Ole Miss) and play in 2011 or if he wants to pursue a professional career, perhaps starting his career in the Canadian Football League, where the rules (I know nothing about the intent of the CFL's rules) fit his style of play remarkably well.

It will, again in my opinion, mark the end of a great injustice. Ole Miss, according to multiple sources, did its due diligence prior to pursuing Masoli. As Boone and Houston Nutt noted Tuesday afternoon, there was no prior case law, if you will, to support the NCAA's denial. As UM administrators reviewed the rules and Masoli's background, no red flags were raised. No one in Indianapolis, according to sources, indicated Masoli's case would be viewed with a different microscope.

So Masoli arrived in Oxford, went through more than three weeks of fall camp and began classes before the NCAA delivered its verdict. If you're skeptical about the NCAA and what it's really all about, you agree with me in the assumption that the powers-that-be at the NCAA knew weeks ago what its verdict would be. To allow Masoli to go through camp and to prevent Nutt from pursuing other options instead of Masoli, while taking the media beating that accompanied his arrival, was fundamentally cruel.

I'm not a big conspiracy theorist. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe that only left-wing lunatic nuts believe the U.S. government played any role in the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington. However, I do believe the NCAA plays favorites and I don't believe for one moment that Masoli's appeal would have been denied Tuesday had he spent the past three-plus weeks practicing at Alabama or Florida.

See, that's the NCAA problem. There is no consistency in its rulings. Watch and see over the next few weeks. I bet, for example, that Marcel Dareus plays at Alabama sooner rather than later. The NCAA is investigating whether the star defensive lineman attended an agent-related party in Florida earlier this year.

A source close to Dareus' family told the (Mobile, Ala.) Press-Register that Dareus took the trip in May on arrangements made by friend and North Carolina defensive end Marvin Austin, but that Dareus returned after a short time, not using a hotel room.

Sure he did. Those players didn't know the guys flying them to Miami and supplying them with expensive bubbly and God knows what else were agents.

And the Tooth Fairy injected Roger Clemens with those PEDs.

In reality, Dareus, Austin and the other players at that party accepted gifts from an agent and should- if the NCAA rules are to be enforced- be stripped of their eligibility. That probably won't happen, though. Intent will be parsed, enforcement will be selective and we'll get to listen to Nick Saban and Urban Meyer preach on about predatory agents.

That's the NCAA way. Rules are open to convenient interpretation.

After all, the show must go on, and the sausage must be served.


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