Luke Cothron is the latest example of everything that is wrong with the NCAA.
A four-star recruit in the Class of 2010, Cothron is currently at his fifth college, six if you include NC State, who he originally committed to in high school.
He originally signed with Auburn, but was ruled a non-qualifier. Cothron had a short stint at UMass and an even shorter stint at New Orleans before heading to the College of Southern Idaho for a year and Northwest Florida for this season.
The problem, however, is the time that he spent at UNO. You see, head coach Joe Pasternack thought he could pull a fast one the NCAA. Since the Privateers were moving to Division III after the season, his players were going to be allowed to transfer without penalty. So he convinced Cothron to enroll for the second semester as an audition for bigger programs looking to land a talented power forward.
So Cothron enrolled on a Monday night, played in a game that Tuesday – all of six minutes – and then … he was told the plan wasn’t going to work. As he told Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, the school figured out that since Cothron was actually enrolled at UMass, he would have to sit out a year before getting eligible at UNO.
Because, you know, those are the standard NCAA rules that everyone knows and hates.
UNO didn’t get a waiver from the NCAA. They didn’t even apply for one. He spent a grand total of two days – and six minutes played — as a member of the team.
And now that’s coming back to bite Cothron, because those six minutes technically count as his freshman season, which means that the one year he spent at CSI is his sophomore season. So now he is forced to sit out at Northwest Florida, because it’s a junior college and athletes aren’t allowed to play at junior colleges after their sophomore season.
All Cothron needs is someone from New Orleans to pick up the phone, call the NCAA, and tell them that they made a mistake. It wasn’t Cothron’s fault. He trusted a coach and the coach had bad information.
But Pasternack has since moved on, and the compliance officer that cleared the decision is gone, as well. Athletic Director Derek Morel apparently can’t be bothered to help Cothron out, either, as Parrish said it has been at least three months since Morel was informed of the problem.
So Cothron sits in basketball purgatory, able to play but ineligible to suit up.
And, frankly, that is a steaming pile of horse manure.
It’s also a perfect example for why so many people despise the NCAA.
Look, Cothron isn’t perfect. In fact, he’s a pretty long way from being what you would call a ‘model’ student. He didn’t qualify academically and he’s been to five schools in less than three years. But the point of college athletics, at its core, is to help kids from disadvantaged situations use physical gifts to better their lives, whether that means getting them straight to the NBA or simply allowing them a chance to get an education.
And because of a stupid thought process from people that Cothron is supposed to be able to trust, Cothron may not have the chance to prove himself deserving of a scholarship.
(Let’s not forgot Mr. Derek Morel here, who isn’t making the effort to pick up the phone and help Cothron out. That ticks me off. If it ticks you off as well, his phone number is 504-280-6102. Let’s see if he picks up the phone when you call.)
It’s hard to believe given the complexity of the NCAA’s rulebook, but there are still kids that manage to slip through the cracks, which is why they need a common sense rule, a clause that simply says, ‘Hey, we messed this one up, you’re good to go.’
No one’s perfect, but it’s incredibly unfair to punish a kid for someone else’s mistakes.
Make this right.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.