After much of the internet was up in arms regarding the status of Colgate freshman Nathan Harries, the NCAA has reversed its original decision to strip Harries of a season of eligibility.
Harries was originally expected to lose that year based on the fact that following his two-year LDS mission he played three games in a church league that consisted primarily of players 30 years of age or older. Normally in such instances the school (Colgate) and student-athlete can appeal the decision, but Harries’ case didn’t even reach the appeals portion of the process.
In a story written by Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, Nathan’s father expressed both his satisfaction with the NCAA’s change of heart and his hope for the future enforcement of the rule that landed Nathan in “hot water” to begin with.
“I’m just hopeful the NCAA revisits this rule and refines it or takes a more common-sense approach so this doesn’t happen again,” the elder Harries said.
That’s the issue regarding cases like these. Many involved with college athletics, from the participants to the fans and media, really don’t have much of a clue as to why the NCAA makes such rulings to begin with. While it’s easy to point out the existence of a rule, more transparency would help all involved in the understanding of the process.
Because until that happens we’ll be dealing with the same cycle: NCAA makes controversial decision that fires up the masses, who react negatively and ultimately the governing body changes course due in part to external pressure. Collegiate athletics shouldn’t be run in that “fashion” and if situations like the one involving Harries can change that, then the NCAA would be better for it.
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.