With this week’s resurfacing news that the eligibility status of Kentucky’s superfreshman post man, Enes Kanter, remains in question, I thought I’d take a few minutes to try to dive a little deeper into the situation. Unfortunately, that means we’ll have to wait until next week to take a look at the absurdity of some more new NCAA football rules, but with the basketball Cats trip to Canada coming up next week, I think it’s fair to say that the Enes issue has risen to the forefront. I hope you agree.
Let’s start with the obvious – that being that the eligibility mess that Kanter is currently facing should be a surprise to no one. We’ve seen eligibility issues galore in recent years – particularly pertaining to the amateur status of incoming college freshmen. Unfortunately, it’s these amateurism issues that seem to drag on forever, whereas academic issues are fairly cut and dry and can be resolved without much back and forth between all parties involved.
And, maybe it’s the eternal pessimist in me, but if I were you Cat fans, I wouldn’t be shocked if the first #0 in program history had to wait a while before trotting out onto the court at Rupp Arena for anything more intense than a simple layup line. That’s not me making a prediction of what will happen, Lord knows I have no insight on what will go down. That’s just me being a realist.
Need proof? Look no further than two of last year’s more highly-touted freshmen (non-Kentucky division).
On one hand, you had Deniz Kilicli, the European big man who chose to play his college ball for (gasp) the West Virginia First-Half 3 Point Shooting Brigade. But, it wasn’t until the 21st game of the season – a February 3rd tilt with Pittsburgh – that Kilici was allowed to step foot on the court after serving an NCAA mandated suspension for playing with a European professional team prior to his arrival in the States.
Think that was rough? Think again. Or at least go talk to Mississippi State Bulldog Renardo Sidney, who was forced to sit out the entirety of what would have been his freshman season, as well as 30% of his sophomore season for receiving improper benefits valued at over $11,000 during his prep career. Sidney, according to the story printed in the LA Times back in March, wasn’t forthcoming and truthful in interviews with the NCAA. From the article:
“Mississippi State also found that Sidney violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he provided false or misleading information throughout the eligibility process, according to the NCAA statement….Our members have made it crystal clear that student-athletes who receive impermissible benefits, either directly or indirectly, and who lie to the NCAA must be held accountable,” said Kevin Lennon, the NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs. “This case is about more than a student-athlete. One of our core responsibilities is to ensure a level playing field for all student-athletes and their teams. No team or individual should have an unfair advantage.”
So, what does this all mean for Kentucky and, more specifically, Kanter? Well, to me at least, two things are pretty clear:
1. elite international prospects have, in the past, fallen into a trap dictated by a system that all but forces them to play with professionals, and
2. the NCAA doesn’t like being lied to
Luckily, the first of those concerns appears to have been resolved, with the new NCAA rule that allows international prospects to compete as amateurs while still playing with professionals, provided they do not accept more than necessary and actual expenses in doing so. Back in April, upon Kanter’s commitment to the Big Blue, the always-great Mike DeCourcy had this to say about the NCAA’s rule change to Bylaw 22.214.171.124.1:
“The Kanter case is revolutionary because it might be the first in which a European-born player coveted at the professional level in his home country chose to turn down that opportunity in order to play collegiately in the United States.
Kanter competed in at least nine games for Fenerbahce in the 2008-09 season — four in the Euroleague, five in the Turkish league — as a deep reserve getting few minutes. It’s been suggested the club put him in those games to make NCAA basketball less appealing for him because of the college rule that has mandated a one-for-one penalty for international players who, regardless of whether they were professionals themselves, competed alongside pros.
However, the NCAA finally recognized the absurdity of this rule and entered exception 126.96.36.199.1 into its legislative process. The change would allow athletes to compete on professional teams provided they do not accept “more than actual and necessary expenses.”
For their part, both Calipari and the Kanter family have attested that Enes followed the guidelines listed above, receiving no more than necessary and actual expenses during his time with Fenerbahce. However, there is obviously still some doubt in the eyes of the powers to be, as Kanter has yet to be cleared from an amateurism standpoint. Without having any direct knowledge of the situation, one can only assume that Fenerbahce is stating information on the contrary to what Enes has said, or that the NCAA officials charge of the case still have some doubts about Kanter’s truthfulness. If neither of those assumptions are true, it seems pretty cut and dry, right?
In the end, we as fans are left shaking our heads and wondering exactly what is going on behind the scenes. This situation, much like that with Dez Bryant’s amateurism issue last fall (as well as many others along the way), is taking quite a bit of time to be hashed out. Now, I’m certainly not here to defend the NCAA’s actions, rulings, judgements, or anything of the like, but I do have a question for you, TGR folks: If given the choice, would you rather the NCAA do its due diligence and make the correct ruling on a situation, even if that means having it bleed into the season and forcing the student-athlete to possibly sit out a portion of the season? Or, would you rather see the NCAA act swiftly with it’s ruling, rendering a student-athlete eligible (or ineligible) before the season begins, but also leaving open the possibility of a Derrick Rose-like situation where facts are discovered after the issue was originally thought to have been handled?
As fans, it seems as though we want to have our cake and eat it to. Obviously, in a perfect world, the rulings would be quick and fair and accurate, and none of this would ever be an issue. However, the reality of the situation is that there are far too many layers of dirt to uncover, and that likely means that one of two things will happen: Either the NCAA will act quickly to make a ruling before the season begins (one that, unfortunately, might be made without all of the necessary facts); or the NCAA will collect all of the necessary information before making a ruling (which will likely be sometime after the season begins).
As stated before, I – just like all of you – have no way of knowing or predicting what will happen between now and November 15th. But I would be interested to hear the thoughts around the tailgate and, specifically, how you would like to see cases like this be handled. Perhaps if we voice our concerns long enough and loud enough, the powers to be may actually have to pay attention to us…