Jeremiah Masoli To Play at Ole Miss: Did the NCAA Make the Right Call?

Kevin LindseyAnalyst ISeptember 4, 2010

Jeremiah Masoli
Jeremiah MasoliStephen Dunn/Getty Images

The NCAA ruling declaring former Oregon Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli ineligible for this season was widely applauded as the right decision.

Masoli was the most recent infamous poster child of college football run amok and athletes thinking that they were above the law.  

Masoli’s head clearly had gotten too big for him. 

How else do you explain Masoli going from the cover of Sports Illustrated and leading his team to the Rose Bowl to deciding that it was a good idea to steal computers, a guitar, and other items from a fraternity house on campus with one of his wide receivers?

How else do you explain Jeremiah blowing the second chance given to him by Oregon coach Chip Kelly by being charged with driving without a license and having less than one ounce of marijuana in the glove compartment of his car?

No tears were shed for Masoli when he was kicked off Oregon’s football team in June.  He had acted badly and was being appropriately punished.

Athletes are not above the law and Masoli was being held to the same standard to which we would all be held. 

Masoli, of course, was unwilling to stay down and accept his fate, but instead decided to separate himself from the rest of the crowd and resurrect his football career by transferring to the University of Mississippi and enrolling in the Parks and Recreation graduate program.

Masoli had found a loophole that potentially would allow him to immediately play as opposed to being benched for the year.  The NCAA will waive its one-year residency requirement for athletes who enter a graduate program not offered at the prior school.

Clearly, Jeremiah was another athlete unwilling to play by the rules.

I am sure that the Parks and Recreation graduate program at the University of Mississippi is wonderful, but it strains all credibility to suggest that it was a mere coincidence that Ole Miss was in need of a starting quarterback this year when Masoli decided to become a Rebel.   

Masoli was only interested in the Rebels because he could start immediately and enhance his chances to be drafted early in the NFL.

Fortunately, the old guard of the NCAA was going to put its foot down on this farce.

Earlier this week, the NCAA declared Masoli ineligible finding that “the waiver exists to provide relief to student-athletes who transfer for academic reasons to pursue graduate studies, not to avoid disciplinary measures at the previous university.”

Finally, the NCAA had got one right at least that was the overwhelming sentiment of fans across the country. 

Most media commentators however quickly questioned and criticized the decision made by the NCAA for inserting discretionary authority into a rule where none had previously existed.  Several stories were posted about players who had been previously been allowed by the NCAA to transfer under the rule after running afoul of their previous coach.

Yesterday, the NCAA Division I Subcommittee for Legislative Relief to the surprise of many reversed itself and Masoli was cleared to play.

Many fans could smell the good ol’ boys network in play and another situation of their being a different set of rules for athletes than for everybody else.  The Masoli case, for these fans, was another clear instance of college football being morally bankrupt.

Of course, those receiving their voices in various blog posts to criticize the decision to reinstate Masoli weren’t raising justifiable positions.

"Anyone who says it's right to let him play football this year is an Ole Miss fan or someone who doesn't care for our legal system. He's a criminal, yet he'll get an opportunity to play football in the SEC in 2011."

If you care about the principle of the rule of law, you are in agreement with the decision to reinstate Masoli. 

Masoli plead guilty to the crimes for which he was charged with in Oregon.  The criminal justice system sentenced him to probation which was a sentence consistent with punishment given to other individuals who negotiate a plea agreement.

The terms of Masoli’s probation don’t prevent him from playing college football and there has been no finding that he is in violation of the terms of his probation.

There is no NCAA rule that prohibits an individual from playing a college sport because he or she has plead guilty to a crime and is on probation.

Supporting Masoli pursuing his opportunity to throw a football on Saturday afternoon is not an act of showing disrespect for our legal system.

"It's common sense, and when you're dealing with student-athletes specifically, the spirit of the law should mean a lot; part of athletics is teaching good morals and ethics."

The most basic fundamental of the “spirit of law” is that all individuals are afforded due process.  Due process means that people are given notice of the consequences their actions such that they have an opportunity to live their lives in compliance within the announced rule.

The rule was simple.  The student must be in good standing with his previous school and he must enroll in a graduate program that is not offered at his previous school.

Masoli was in good standing with his previous school as he earned his undergraduate degree from Oregon earlier this year.

Masoli enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Mississippi, which is a program that is not offered at Oregon.  

There is nothing in the rule which states that the NCAA could deny Masoli the right to transfer because he was kicked off of the Oregon football team.

Penalizing Masoli by not allowing him to play at Ole Miss this year would have violated the spirit of the law.  How is it consistent with the spirit of the law to punish someone for their behavior after the fact?

Raising the issue of whether it is ethical for the University of Mississippi begs a larger question that has been lost in the discussion.

If NCAA member institutions are truly only concerned about kids getting an education, what is ethical about the NCAA requiring a student-athlete to sit on a year because they wish to transfer to another school? 

The only question that the NCAA should ask when a student wishes to transfer is whether the student-athlete is making progress toward graduation at a rate commensurate with other students at the university, and if the answer is yes the NCAA should grant the transfer.

The NCAA prohibiting students to transfer on the basis of any other reason is purely to preserve the economic interests of member institutions.  Why do we allow this exploitation of student-athletes?

Can you imagine being told that you could not change jobs without first getting permission of your employer?   

And before you say what about people who are subject to non-compete agreements with their employer, remember the limited context in which non-compete agreements are upheld.

Courts are hostile to those agreements and when they do allow them they only do so when people are getting some type of economic benefit in return and the employer can show some type of economic harm if their employee was to leave and go work for their competitor.

If the NCAA ethically wants to limit the ability of student-athletes to transfer to another school for any reason unrelated to academic performance, shouldn’t the NCAA ethically provide some form of economic consideration to the individual?

"The NCAA stating that his transfer was not for academic reasons is spot on. Anybody who denies that is an idiot. He is obviously manipulating the system. It's wrong. What is wrong with all of you? Why do you condone this behavior?"

The better question is why are people being naïve as to the reality of college football?  Do people really believe that most of the players in the SEC choose their present school solely because of their academic programs?

There is little doubt that Masoli aspires to play in the NFL; Masoli’s decision to transfer to an SEC school affords him an opportunity to showcase his skills for NFL teams in high-profile games.

Further, why shouldn’t we condone Masoli’s behavior while a student at the University of Oregon; don’t we all wish for our college athletes to graduate with a degree? 

While not attempting to sugarcoat the mistakes Masoli made away from the classroom, the NCAA made the right decision in allowing Masoli to play once the University of Mississippi decided to enroll Masoli as a graduate student.


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