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Former Auburn LB Khari Harding's Family Still in the Dark on Tulsa Eligibility

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 23, 2015

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"This has just been so crazy, that it's unbelievable. The timing and everything is just mind-boggling. It really is."

The frustration of Corie Harding has clearly reached a boiling point after an NCAA rule change, which the family didn't know about until The Oklahoman reported it last Wednesday, suggests that his son, Khari—a junior linebacker who transferred from Auburn to Tulsa—would be ineligible in 2015.

Corie Harding and his son, Khari, didn't sign up for this kind of struggle when Khari chose to leave the Plains in order to be closer to his father, who's undergoing chemotherapy in his second battle with cancer in Edmond, Oklahoma.  

Corie Harding is awaiting a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan that will determine what stage the cancer is in.

"If that comes back where I have spots over my lungs or my liver, there's nothing they can do," Harding told Bleacher Report. "If I don't have those spots, I still have to go through chemo to ensure things are going well."

That plan for Harding to transfer and play immediately apparently has changed.

The NCAA voted to eliminate the hardship waiver that previously allowed players to transfer without sitting out a year in favor of simply granting them a sixth year of eligibility. The rule was approved last year and enacted earlier this month for all undergraduate student-athletes looking to participate in the 2015-2016 season, according to the NCAA.

"The NCAA needs to look at this rule a little more and make some adjustments," Corie Harding said. "That's what we want this out there. It's not right."

Tulsa issued the following statement to Bleacher Report regarding the waiver process and its effort to prevent Harding from sitting out the 2015 season.

It has been The University of Tulsa's interpretation that the Legislative Relief (SLR) policy specifying that immediate eligibility no longer be provided for undergraduate student-athletes who are not eligible to use the one-time transfer exception would enter into affect beginning with the 2015-16 academic year. The NCAA DI Board of Directors Report from April 24, 2014 states "the change would be effective for those undergraduate transfer students who transfer and enroll during the 2015-16 academic year and thereafter."

The recent NCAA Question & Answer dialogue relating to the 4-4 transfer directive that was issued on March 16, 2015 indicates differently. The University of Tulsa has been operating under the interpretation of the Board of Directors Report of April 24, 2014 indicating the change would not affect those students who enrolled in spring 2015. 

Student-athlete Khari Harding enrolled at The University of Tulsa during the 2014–15 academic year. The waiver seeking immediate eligibility for Harding for the 2015 football season is currently in progress. 

The University of Tulsa understands that the document issued on March 16th is not legislation, but instead an NCAA "Q&A" unpublished standard and not an official interpretation. The university will seek further clarification and will continue the waiver process.

The rule change came as a surprise to the Harding family, but it isn't just the NCAA that the elder Harding is upset with.

It's Tulsa.

Former Auburn DB/LB Khari Harding
Former Auburn DB/LB Khari HardingCredit: 247Sports

According to Harding, Khari received a voice mail from head coach Philip Montgomery on Saturday as he was traveling back from Panama City Beach, Florida, stating that the two would discuss the situation at a team meeting on Sunday. The school confirmed in a statement to Bleacher Report that, since Khari arrived on campus, all communication has been with the student-athlete.

During that meeting on Sunday night, Khari, who's known as "Mookie" to his friends and family, was told that Tulsa didn't hear about this until Friday evening. 

"I said 'Mookie, do you honestly believe that?'" Corie Harding said on Monday. "'You went to Panama City, and you found out down there. You're trying to tell me that they didn't hear about any of this till Friday?'

"Wow. That just blew my mind."

The only people Corie Harding has heard from out of Tulsa are media members looking to tell their story.

"I heard from the Tulsa World. I heard from John Hoover and some of those people, because evidently they've been talking to compliance," Harding said. "What I told them was, 'no disrespect, but the things that you guys are telling me should be coming from the compliance office or the University of Tulsa. Not you.'"

"Family," Corie Harding exclaims. "At Auburn, they are a family. They called me. They checked up on me. They checked up on other people. They called, they emailed and did whatever they had to do to stay in touch and have some sort of relationship and rapport with the parents. When your kid's in college, that's all they have. Here at the University of Tulsa, I haven't heard from one coach. Not one. Not one. Period. Khari told me that he needed my medical records in January, and that's it."

Former Auburn DB/LB Khari Harding
Former Auburn DB/LB Khari HardingCredit: 247Sports

Not only has Harding been fighting his own battle with cancer and hoping to see his son play football in 2015, but he's been traveling to Tulsa between treatments to visit his son and enjoy his family.

"Me and my daughter went down there because she leaves for the Air Force on April 28," he said. "I went down there on March 3 and took a kid down there to meet the recruiting coordinator, and I didn't see one coach. Not one coach. I was down there for two or three hours, I was on the field, I was in the offices, locker rooms and went everywhere. Nobody."

According to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser, there was a chance that Harding could have returned to Auburn to play for the Tigers under the Return to Original Institution without Participation or with Minimal Participation Exception within 14 days of spring practice starting.

That window, according to Harding, closed on Sunday, leaving the family few options on what to do next.

"If push comes to shove, honestly, I'd rather him go back (to Auburn)," Corie Harding said. "This is our home state, and we're putting up with this?"

"I'd rather for him to sit out at Auburn. I can make adjustments like I did for the past two years to get to Auburn. Or if I have to move to Atlanta, it wouldn't be an issue because we thought about that the first time. Wouldn't be a problem. This is just mind-boggling."

How likely is a return to Auburn for Khari?

When asked about it last week, head coach Gus Malzahn was noncommittal on the possibility, according to Crepea, which isn't the most surprising development since Khari is a member of the Tulsa football program now.

"I don't want to get into hypotheticals," Malzahn said. "His dad is extremely sick and I was wanting him to get closer back to his family. That's important to him and so that was unfortunate. I'm disappointed for him because Khari is a fine young man, his dad is a fine person, too."

Even if Khari can't play in 2015, Corie's true dream for his son is still intact.

"Our motivation as a family was for him to get his degree. His grades are good, and he's probably going to be graduating in a year-and-a-half. He's been in summer school since graduating high school. He's on track."

On track, despite the detour.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.