As word continues to spread about the NCAA declaring UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad ineligible, here is what we know at this time.
1) Muhammad could miss as many as 10 games if the NCAA determines he received more than $1,000 in benefits. NCAA rules dictate that if that’s the case, a player must miss 30% of a season and has to repay all benefits. Reports indicate that the NCAA suspects the benefits provided for Muhammad are between $1,500 and $2,000
2) UCLA plans to appeal the decision, which overshadowed their outstanding season-opening win over Indiana State and a brilliant performance from freshman Jordan Adams, who scored 21 points off the bench.
3) The NCAA could announce a formal decision on the matter as early as next week, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Now here is what I think. The NCAA not only stalled a young man’s career, they showed ineffective judgment in the process. A process that took longer than most expected and yielded a disappointing result in the process.
Muhammad took unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina. According to NCAA rules, the family must pay for unofficial visits but Muhammad’s family received money from a Benjamin Lincoln, a family friend and financial advisor based in North Carolina, to help assist in travel and lodging.
Somebody needs to explain this. If Lincoln has known the family for years, how is any of his help improper? There’s a chance that because they’ve known each other so long, any monetary help was simply circumstantial, not influential. It’s not the case of somebody coming into Muhammad’s life after he became known to try and convince him to make a decision.
As fellow Rant scribe Jake Fischer pointed out, Muhammad didn’t choose either school. It had no effect on his decision and he clearly saw it as a friend helping him out to make a wise choice on his future.
This is not a program booster padding someone’s pockets. This is not an agent paying a player. This isn’t even buying a car. If Lincoln had no direct connection to either program, this is not an attempt to sell Muhammad to the highest bidder.
It’s another example of the NCAA overlooking common sense in the name of protecting the game. The game where they and the schools usually make out pretty well regardless while players are treated as raw product that can be dealt with if they move off the assembly line.
I don’t blame Muhammad or any other player wondering how they can profit of their name and success. As soon as they sign a letter of intent, they allow the NCAA to make money off their likeness and schools will go to no end promoting their presence on campus. All while the players get none of those profits except an academic scholarship – that doesn’t always cover the full tuition and room and board – while flying around the country representing the school.
The good news is that barring any changes or revelations, Muhammad could play by Dec. 15. Yet one can hope that the NCAA will reduce Muhammad’s suspension on the basis of it not influencing his decision and Lincoln merely helping out people he has known for years.
If not, then Muhammad is the latest victim of the NCAA claiming it’s for student-athletes but being too heavy handed when athletes turn to longtime friends – not boosters or agents – for help.