NCAA’s Isaiah Brock stance is bad PR, but how the system works

AP Photo/Al Goldis

You’ve probably never heard the name Isaiah Brock before, but if you are a college basketball fan, it’s one you will hear quite a bit about over the course of the next month.

Brock is a veteran. He spent four years serving in the army, helping to get the bodies of soldiers killed in combat back home. As detailed in this story from the Detroit Free-Press, Brock went from an uninterested, 6-foot high school student to a 6-foot-8 22-year old that wanted to further his education while he was enlisted.

Oakland head coach Greg Kampe saw him on a trip to Kuwait, offered him a scholarship and Brock accepted.

It’s a terrific story … or it was until the NCAA got in the way.

Like I said earlier, Brock was a disinterested high school student. He didn’t take the classes or get the grades he needed to get eligible for college sports because he never knew college sports would be an option for him. That’s why, after two tours in the Middle East and despite a dozen college credits he earned in online classes and summer school at Oakland, the NCAA ruled Brock ineligible.

He can be on campus. He can be on scholarship. He cannot play basketball until 2017-18. The NCAA termed it a “year of academic preparedness.”

But here’s the key point to be made: Oakland can and will appeal this decision.

They are going to win that appeal. I don’t have any inside information here, mind you. This isn’t coming from a source at the NCAA. This is just common sense, because this is how these things always play out.

The NCAA has to process tens of thousands of athletes through their eligibility center. When determining the initial eligibility of a player, they use hard and fast rules for simplicity’s sake. They only have so much time and so much man power. Taking a deep dive into every case, considering all the extenuating factors in each kid’s life, in the initial process would likely mean that the decisions aren’t made by the start of practice or games.

And that’s why they leave decisions open for appeal, so that kids like Brock – who served his country and who has proven his ability in a college classroom and who has changed in the five years since he didn’t care about high school grades – don’t fall through the cracks.

The NCAA determines who didn’t make the cut, then listens for valid appeals about why that shouldn’t matter.

Brock has one.

And Oakland knows it.

Which is why the school went public with this story.

They knew it would get traction everywhere. I’m writing about it. Every other outlet that covers college hoops will, too. Jay Bilas will tweet about it. Everyone that is anti-NCAA will get up in arms over it.

The public pressure will be too much for the NCAA to rule against Brock. They probably wouldn’t rule against him even if Oakland say back quietly and let the process play out in silence.

This same thing happens every year.

Is it terrible PR for the NCAA? Absolutely. But given the system that’s currently in place, that bad PR is more-or-less an unavoidable by-product.

Should the system change? Should universities be able to determine who they admit into school? Absolutely. Think about how many people at every school in the country work in the admissions department. Their sole job is to determine who should be allowed into school, and they’re just as capable with student-athletes as they are with regular old students.

But these are the NCAA rules which have been determined by the NCAA members. Or, in other words, the schools themselves have decided that they cannot be trusted with these decisions because they cannot trust the programs they compete against not to cheat, not to allow in kids that are terrific athletes and non-existent students.

So the eligibility center remains.

Which means that, every year, we are going to see stories like Brock’s pop up. Remember Tacko Fall? He was last year’s Cause Du Jour.

He was eventually cleared.

Just like Brock will be.

As the great Omar Little once said: