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NCAA Expands its Nerlens Noel Investigation: How to Fix the Charade

The NCAA has expanded its investigation into the recruitment of Kentucky commit Nerlens Noel, according to Pete Thamel at SI.com.

As D.A. laid out in “Frisking the Fade, Volume 1,” there are about a bazillion things that call into question the legitimacy of Noel’s recruitment. The circumstantial evidence is there. The NCAA has recognized the evidence, travelling to New England for a second time to probe the man with the hi-top fade.

Last time the destination was Everett High School, where the former Syracuse recruiting target spent 9th and 10th grade, and this week NCAA enforcement officials went to the Tilton School. Those officials were joined by UK chief compliance officer Sandy Bell, which illustrates the seriousness of the investigation.

Should the NCAA find academic violations or recruiting shenanigans, it’ll be interesting to see if John Calipari remains unscathed. The Kentucky bench boss has escaped NCAA punishment thus far in his career despite violations that occurred under his watch at UMass and Memphis. Imagine if Coach Cal had the audacity to pull a fast one to land an ineligible player who’s had the NCAA’s attention from the start? Calipari’s reputation would take another hit, and SU can breathe a sigh of relief it dodged a bullet. Jim Boeheim could feel validated for every dirty recruiting battle he’s lost to his greasy-haired counterpart.

Props to the NCAA for being proactive and investigating Noel now. Better to sort out Noel’s eligibility one way or the other before his college career begins (or doesn’t begin). However, Noel’s sketchy recruitment still underscores an enormous flaw in the system.

Let’s say the NCAA inquiry comes back 100% clean. What happens in that scenario? Noel plays his freshman season for the Wildcats, maybe wins a national title, leaves Kentucky following the season, and becomes the first overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Now let’s say the NCAA determines that Noel’s recruitment ought to have been written into the script of “Blue Chips.” That professional scumbag Chris Driscoll attempted to shop Noel to schools, slimy Everett High substitute teacher Errol Randolph got Noel in bed with sports agent Andy Miller, and everyone helped pay for Nerlens to take unofficial campus visits.

You know what would happen then? Noel would be deemed ineligible by the NCAA. He’d sit out the season. And then he’d become the first overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft.

The massive flaw in the system is that the athletes are never forced to pay the price for breaking the rules, which makes breaking them in the first place a no-brainer.

In 2009, the NCAA found that Derrick Rose cheated on his SATs. The University of Memphis had to suffer the consequences, by vacating its 2007-2008 season in which it finished as the NCAA runner-up. Calipari and Rose did settle a lawsuit with Memphis fans by agreeing to each pay $100,000, but that’s chump change for the duo. Rose was selected with the top pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, won Rookie of the Year, and later an MVP award. He’ll earn approximately $16.4 million this season, and that figure will increase each of the next four seasons. Calipari escaped to Kentucky and signed a lucrative 8-year contract.

So to review, Derrick Rose was nailed for cheating on his SATs, and his life improved. Same thing for Coach Cal. He landed one of the best jobs in college sports. In fact, Rose has a superb reputation and is known by fans as one of the good guys in the league, extremely humble for his level of stardom.

I have no problem with Rose’s reputation specifically – I agree that he seems like a quality person. But there has to be a way to make Rose and others pay for their past mistakes. Nerlens was fully capable of removing himself from the grimy people that clung to him during his recruitment, but chose not to because he knows in the long run he’s untouchable. NBA franchises don’t care about Chris Driscoll and Errol Randolph. They’re only focused on Noel’s franchise-changing shot-blocking ability.

Two things must be done to stop this problem. First of all, someone needs to put an end to the ridiculous one-and-done rule. Allow players to head straight from high school to the NBA. High school seniors looking to cash in wouldn’t be forced to do so in violation of the NCAA. Secondly, the NBA and the NCAA ought to organize a joint penal code for players involved in recruiting violations. If Noel forsaw a suspension from the NCAA and the NBA in his future, he might reconsider spending so much time with Driscoll.

Give players the freedom the earn money earlier, while increasing penalties for those who do so illegally. That’s the recipe for cleaning up college recruiting.

In the meantime, young, impoverished student athletes will still fish for cash where they shouldn’t, college programs desperate for talent will turn a blind eye, and the wrong people will pay the price for others’ misdeeds.

Posted: Andrew Kanell

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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