Amid outcries of rapidly declining power within the college sports hierarchy, the NCAA took the opportunity to flex its muscles this week, suspending Colgate University guard Nathan Harries for the 2013-14 season after he played in an unsanctioned church league basketball game this summer.
Yes, a church league game.
However, since the backlash over the ban, the NCAA has reportedly reconsidered its stance and reversed the suspension.
UPDATE: Thursday, Nov. 7 at 12:14 p.m. ET
From Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports:
Source: NCAA has reconsidered and granted Colgate's Nathan Harries his fourth-year of eligibility. Process didn't reach appeals committee.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) November 7, 2013
---End of update---
Harries, who committed to Colgate in 2011 but spent the last two years completing a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in North Carolina, is entering his freshman season at the school. According to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Harries served as a fill-in for three games in a low-stakes local league at Dunwoody Baptist Church.
The NCAA in turn ruled that he had played in an unsanctioned competitive environment prior to enrolling in school, a violation of the governing body's bylaws. By rule, a player who violates the code must forfeit one year of eligibility.
Colgate filed for a waiver on Harries' behalf when informed of the decision, but it was denied on Oct. 21. The school has subsequently appealed, and a subcommittee in charge of cases like these is expected to meet and render a decision within a week.
While Harries has not commented as his case is being heard, Cara Marie Singel, Colgate’s assistant athletic director for compliance, confirmed the case with the Journal-Constitution.
“Colgate University has filed an appeal with the NCAA on Nathan Harries’ behalf," Singel said. "The university and the athletics department await the outcome of that appeal.”
Nathan's father, Michael, has refused to stay silent during the process.
“Some of the rulings that come from the NCAA don’t make sense," Michael Harries said. "Johnny Manziel gets a half-game suspension for signing autographs. A guy plays three games in a church league, and he loses a year. Obviously there’s a difference between big-time athletes and small-time athletes with the NCAA.”
Michael Harries, of course, refers to the Heisman-winning Texas A&M quarterback, who received a light suspension for his alleged involvement with autograph brokers. The NCAA has also shown a weakened hand following Sports Illustrated's exposé on Oklahoma State football and its own handling of Miami's (Fla.) rules violations.
But, in this case, college basketball's governing body chose to stick with the letter of the law, despite this church league being "organized" in name only. Schultz describes the league as a group of men in their upper-30s with other professions, guys without matching jerseys or so much as rosters full of players who have even participated in the sport.
“We had one guy who played with us and he was like, ‘If any of you have any advice you could give me that would be great because I never played basketball before,’” Matt Adams, one league participant, said.
Though a situation like this has been frustrating for Colgate, precedence in this case is on Harries' side. As Schultz notes, Middle Tennessee State football player Steven Rhodes was placed in a similar predicament after admitting to playing recreational football while in the Marines, but his appeal was granted upon further review.
Either way, Colgate hopes for a resolution soon. The Raiders, who went 11-21 last season, open their 2013-14 campaign with a trip to Wake Forest on Friday.
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