Just two days after the NCAA made what many believe to be the right decision in the case of UNLV guard Kevin Olekaibe, the governing body has made a decision regarding Colgate guard Nathan Harries that simply boggles the mind.
Harries is entering his freshman season at Colgate after spending two years in North Carolina on an LDS mission. Missionaries don’t get much recreation time, about a half-hour each day after waking up unless they happen upon some locals while out looking to pass on their religious beliefs. In the case of Harries, he served as a fill-in for three church league games in North Carolina while on his mission.
With the NCAA having a rule that student-athletes who don’t enroll within a year of their high school graduation can lose a year of eligibility if they participate in a competitive league, those three games cost Harries a year of eligibility. Three church league games for an entire season of eligibility.
The governing body ruled that Harries played this past summer in an organized and competitive basketball league before enrolling at Colgate. In truth, Harries actually was just a fill-in for three games for a “C” level team in a relative church basketball league. Most players are in their 30s; one team is largely comprised of players in their 50s. According to one player, Matt Adams, a 36-year-old high school teacher, “We had one guy who played with us and he was like, ‘If any of you have any advice you could give me that would be great because I never played basketball before.’”
It’s understood that rules are rules, but you have to wonder if the NCAA actually looked into the caliber of this league before rendering a decision on the matter. Because if this church league primarily consisted of “athletes” well past their athletic “prime” why should Harries lose a full year of eligibility?
There’s certainly a need for rules in collegiate athletics; no one would argue otherwise. But far too often decisions are made that result in people asking “what is the NCAA thinking?” And until there’s greater transparency in the decision-making process, those questions will continue to be asked.