Comments by Shabazz Muhammad’s lawyer are not a good sign

8 Comments

It sounds like Shabazz Muhammad might be in trouble when it comes to his NCAA eligibility.

Let’s ignore what we already know for a second. Let’s forget about the fact that he wasn’t cleared to go on a trip to China with the rest of his UCLA team and that his sister is sponsored by the same shoe company that sponsored his AAU team and sponsors UCLA. Let’s get past all the issues with his association to agents and financial advisers and all of the mess surrounding his unofficial visits across the country.

All you need to know about Muhammad’s attempt to become NCAA eligible is this quote that his lawyer, Robert Orr, gave to the LA Times on Sunday night:

“Shabazz didn’t even turn 18 until November of 2011 and until he signed with UCLA in April of this year was not under NCAA jurisdiction,” Orr said.

Obviously, we don’t know the context of the quote, so this will all be speculation. But the speculation isn’t all that difficult, is it? This is, essentially, Orr telling one of the biggest papers in the country that the NCAA shouldn’t be allowed to punish Muhammad — or, for that matter, Anderson or any recruit that asks for an NLI signing bonus or has their recruitment brokered by an agent — for the amateurism violations his committed while in high school.

That’s not a defense. That’s a technicality. That’s semantics. That’s Ross trying to convince Rachel he didn’t cheat on her because they were on a break.

And it doesn’t even work. Take, for example, NCAA Bylaw 12.01.3, which says:

NCAA amateur status may be lost as a result of activities prior to enrollment in college. If NCAA rules specify that an “individual” may or may not participate in certain activities, this term refers to a person prior to and after enrollment in a member institution. If NCAA rules specify a “student-athlete,” the legislation applies only to that person’s activities after enrollment.

If you continue on to NCAA Bylaw 12.1.2, you’ll find this (my emphasis added):

An individual loses amateur status and thus shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition in a particular sport if the individual:

(a) Uses his or her athletics skill (directly or indirectly) for pay in any form in that sport;
(b) Accepts a promise of pay even if such pay is to be received following completion of intercollegiate athletics participation;
(c) Signs a contract or commitment of any kind to play professional athletics, regardless of its legal enforceability or any consideration received, except as permitted in Bylaw 12.2.5.1(Revised:  4/29/10 effective 8/1/10)
(d) Receives, directly or indirectly, a salary, reimbursement of expenses or any other form of financial assistance from a professional sports organization based on athletics skill or participation, except as permitted by NCAA rules and regulations;
(e) Competes on any professional athletics team per Bylaw 12.02.5, even if no pay or remuneration for expenses was received, except as permitted in Bylaw 12.2.3.2.1;  (Revised: 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02, 4/29/10 effective 8/1/10)
(f) After initial full-time collegiate enrollment, enters into a professional draft (see Bylaw 12.2.4); or  (Revised: 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02, 4/24/03 effective 8/1/03)
(g) Enters into an agreement with an agent. (Adopted: 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02)

So, you see, the NCAA is quite clear on these matters.

What that means is that Muhammad’s lawyer is getting ready to go back and attack the very basis on which the NCAA determines pre-enrollment amateurism.

That means one of two things: either Muhammad knows that the NCAA has him dead-to-rights accepting illegal benefits that would jeopardize his amateurism, or his has a really bad lawyer.

Either way, that’s not a promising sign for UCLA fans.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.