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Braxton Beverly, Evan Battey and Jalen Hayes are proof NCAA has no business determining academic ability

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The NCAA cannot get out of their own way.

Just seven days after N.C. State formally appealed the NCAA’s initial ruling on Braxton Beverly’s eligibility and two weeks after the association announced that they have no grounds to punish North Carolina for decades of academic fraud that helped keep national title-winning players eligible, the Wolfpack were informed that there was going to be no change in the eligibility status of their freshman point guard.

Beverly will not be playing for the Wolfpack this season.

If you haven’t been following along with this story, buckle up. You’re about to get angry.

Beverly is a three-star recruit from Kentucky that originally committed to, signed with and enrolled at Ohio State while Thad Matta was the head coach. He went as far as to take summer classes at the school, enrolling in May, a good two months after Ohio State’s athletic director had given Matta a vote of confidence.

That vote of confidence lasted three months. In early June, a couple of weeks after Beverly had enrolled in summer courses under the impression that he would be playing for Matta, the old coach was out and, by the end of that week, new head coach Chris Holtmann was hired.

But Beverly wasn’t recruited by Holtmann. He didn’t have a relationship with that staff, not the kind of relationship he had with N.C. State’s staff, so he left the school at the end of June – about two months before the start of the fall semester of his freshman year – and made his way to Raleigh.

Generally speaking, when there is a coaching change in a program, the players that had signed with the previous staff are granted a release by the new staff. It’s how things work at the college level. No matter how much the NCAA wants to bury their head in the sand and ignore the obvious, basketball players are committing to basketball coaches, not to the school. When there is that change, the right thing to do is to let those players move on. It’s what VCU did with LaVar Batts, who reconsidered his commitment after Will Wade left for LSU, getting a release and ending up at N.C. State. And it’s what N.C. State did with Thomas Allen, who reopened his recruitment when Mark Gottfried was fired and eventually signed with Nebraska.

And that’s what Ohio State did with Beverly. They gave him a release. They even supported his appeal with the NCAA. But since Matta’s firing happened in June, after Beverly had already started taking classes and working towards his degree but before he start of his freshman year, he was considered a transfer.

One year in residence.

No questions asked.

“This is a situation where adults failed a young man, and he’s the one paying the price,” head coach Kevin Keatts said.

If that one is bad, this one will infuriate you.

Evan Battey is a freshman with Colorado. When he was a 13-year old freshman in high school, the Southern California native dealt with what head coach Tad Boyle described as “personal and family issues” that sent his grades off a cliff. He failed his freshman year, repeated the grade and, in the four years since, has turned himself into a model student, quite possibly the most academically sound player on the Colorado roster.

But he will not be playing basketball as a freshman with the Buffaloes just like he was not able to play basketball as a senior in high school. You see, when Battey was failing as a freshman, his mother – who, by the way, is an aerospace engineer and probably knows a thing or two about academia – pulled him off the team, a source told NBC Sports. You don’t get five years of high school ball in California, but Battey didn’t transfer to a prep school for his final year. He finished up at Villa Park as a player/coach and earned Orange County Athletic Directors Association with its Athlete of Character Award.

That sounds like a pretty impressive young man, but since he couldn’t mentally handle being a 13-year old freshman in high school at the same time that his family was going through their own problems, the NCAA has forced him to take an academic redshirt.

“It’s a little bit ironic to me with all the things that are going on in college basketball,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said last week. “North Carolina academic scandal, they lawyer up and fight the NCAA for two years, and they win on a technicality. They get off scot-free. There’s an FBI investigation going on. There’s four assistant coaches that have been arrested by the FBI. As of today, nothing has happened to those four schools. No ramifications for those sorts of things.”

“But you have a kid who struggled a little bit when he was 13 years old in the classroom due to a lot of personal and family issues he was dealing with at the time, and he gets stuck sitting out this year.”

And what about Jalen Hayes?

A 6-foot-7 senior that averaged 15.9 points and 8.0 boards last season, Hayes will not be allowed to compete for the first semester this season. He earned a 2.5 grade in a class within his major last year, and Hayes’ major just so happens to require a 2.8 grade in order to get credit. That meant that Hayes fell under the NCAA’s minimum requirement for credit hours. He’s ineligible in the NCAA’s eyes for “failed to make satisfactory progress toward a degree” despite the fact that – get this – he’s on track to graduate a semester early with a 2.9 GPA.

I’m not allowed to curse in this space, otherwise I would be here.

Profusely.

This is the way that it works for the NCAA on the academic side.

They do not have the power to punish North Carolina for years and years and years of academic fraud because the school made the simple argument that the fake classes weren’t actually fake and the NCAA has ceded the ability to determine what is and isn’t academic fraud to the universities.

On the other side of things, three kids who are quiet clearly the embodiment “student-athlete” that the NCAA should be using as their posterboys – Take summer school classes! Graduate early! Failing freshman year doesn’t mean you can’t turn your life around! – and instead force them to sit out games even after appeal.

And if that is the case, it is time for the NCAA to get out of the business of determining academic ability.

Because if this is the way that it is going to go, the system is broken beyond repair.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.