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