Tim Abromaitis did absolutely nothing wrong.
He listened to his coaching staff and did what was best for his team, his education and his career. He trusted them when they told him that he could redshirt a season after playing in two exhibition games as a sophomore. He believed them, because that is what you are supposed to do when you are a college athlete. You’re supposed to trust that your coach will make the right decision for you, especially when that decision has to do with the minutiae of the NCAA Rulebook.
And for that trust — for doing what he has been trained to do as an athlete — Abromaitis was rewarded with a four game suspension to start the 2011-2012 season. You see, the NCAA allows freshmen to take part in exhibitions and then redshirt that season. That’s not the case for sophomores, junior or seniors, but Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey misinterpreted the rule when he opted to use that redshirt on Abromaitis.
So technically speaking, in the NCAA’s eyes, Abromaitis used up his eligibility last spring. He played all of 40 minutes in 12 games as a freshman, took part in those two exhibitions as a sophomore, and was an all-league player as a junior and senior. Four seasons, four years of eligibility. If the NCAA went by the letter of the law, Notre Dame would not have their leading returning scorer available this season. In that sense, Notre Dame and Abromaitis caught a break.
But the fact that we have to say that a player in this situation caught a break is a sign of just how screwed up the NCAA is.
There is so much wrong with the NCAA as an organization. Conferences are aligning themselves based on the wishes of the television network that broadcasts their games. The people that run college football’s national title system are so corrupt they make Bernie Madoff blush. Its the worst kept secret in the world that players at major football and basketball programs are on the take. College basketball recruiting is the wild west, with paydays as high as six figures being tossed around for kids that will spend seven months on campus. And with all the money being generated through these television contracts to watch these college kids play football and basketball, the athletes themselves aren’t even getting full cost-of-attendance scholarships from their universities.
And with all of that going on, the NCAA still manages to find the time to stick it to an academic all-american that earned his bachelor’s degree and his MBA in four years because of a couple of throwaway minutes he played in an exhibition — not a game, an exhibition — that didn’t count back in November of 2008 when his coach misinterpreted a rule that doesn’t make sense in the first place.
Eventually something has to change in this organization, right?
Or do they think that by handing out ridiculous punishments to one of the few kids that actually embodies the ideal of “student-athlete” they are making a statement?
Somewhere, I think Jay Bilas’ head just exploded.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.