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The NCAA absolutely made the right decision on Dennis Tinnon

Dennis Tinnon

Marshall’s Dennis Tinnon scores against Syracuse’s Kris Joseph, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. Syracuse won 62-56. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)


It is incredibly easy to rip the NCAA when they get something wrong. Spend 15 minutes on twitter after another piece of news about college football’s playoff breaks and you’ll see just how easy it is.

But in the same vein, it is only fair to credit the NCAA when they get something right.

And they did just that on Tuesday afternoon when Marshall’s Dennis Tinnon was granted an extra year of eligibility.

Tinnon’s story is a fascinating one. He was twice kicked out of East High in Green Bay, the second time for stealing tickets from the school’s football office during his junior year. It would be the second high school season that he missed. Tinnon failed to finish the community service he was required to do after the arrest, which meant that Tinnon had to spend three weekends early in his senior year in jail.

He eventually got back on the court and performed well enough to be named honorable mention all-state, but when the year was over, he still needed a semester’s worth of school to graduate. He enrolled at Williston State, a junior college in North Dakota, in an effort to earn his GED and begin practicing with the basketball team, but an incident involving a BB gun -- he was shooting at a stop sign and accidentally hit someone in the face, resulting in a reckless endangerment charge -- ended that.

The arrest was a violation of his probation, and after ducking a warrant back in Green Bay, Tinnon was forced to do four months in jail. That time changed him, and when he got out, he took a second job at a slaughterhouse at night while he spent the day finishing his high school degree. In the spring of 2009, Tinnon performed well enough in a men’s league that a former high school rival convinced him to tryout for Kansas City Kansas Community College, where he eventually earned a scholarship.

Tinnon moved to Kansas City with his now-wife and their newborn daughter, and became a star. He averaged 23.4 points and 13.4 boards as a sophomore in 2010-2011 before winding up at Marshall. And after averaging 10.0 points and 10.2 boards in his first season with the Thundering Herd, Tinnon looked like a favorite to be on the Conference USA preseason all-league team.

The problem was those couple of months that he spent at Williston State. Technically, it started his eligibility clock. Division I basketball players have five years to complete their four seasons of eligibility, and last year was the fifth after Tinnon had enrolled in college.

But on Tuesday, the NCAA ruled that, since Tinnon never even practiced with the team and was only on campus to complete his GED, he would be allowed to have his final year of eligibility.

Tinnon is everything that the NCAA wants student-athletes to be about. He used his sport to turn around his life and build a support system for his family. He’ll end his playing career with a college diploma, a man that has come a long way from the kid that spent four months in prison. (I’d strongly urge you to read this story from Luke Winn on Tinnon from back in January.)

Rebounding has proven to be the one skill that translates best from the collegiate level to the NBA, which means that there is an outside chance that Tinnon could end up being drafted in 2013.

And it is great that the NCAA made the correct decision to give him that chance.

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