CRAWFORD: Latest NCAA outrage, WKU recruit Michael Bradley
LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Michael Bradley is a 6-10 center who has attended the University of Connecticut for the past two seasons. I say attended because he never has played.
He redshirted his freshman season. Last season he missed because of injury AND (don't miss this) offered to give up his scholarship so that 6-10 NBA prospect and prep phenom Andre Drummond could be a late addition to the Huskies' team. (The school later said that Bradley remained on scholarship, and that Drummond's parents obtained a loan to pay his tuition.)
When word got out that Bradley had made this offer for a one-and-done NBA hopeful (and Drummond did leave after one season for the NBA Draft), it caused something of a stir in Storrs, Conn., a controversy Bradley had not intended.
Now, with his grandmother battling cancer, Bradley decided he wanted to get closer to his Chattanooga, Tenn., hometown. Option No. 1 was staying at UConn. Huskies' coach Jim Calhoun looked into what could be done within NCAA rules to provide Bradley additional transportation to Chattanooga to visit his grandmother from time to time while staying in Storrs. No good. Against NCAA rules.
So he decided to transfer, and eventually chose Western Kentucky University. He enrolled there and has been taking summer classes and working out.
Bradley, as far as I can tell, has broken no rules. He's an exemplary student. But the NCAA is telling him that he can't play for WKU next season. He'll have to sit out because of its transfer rules. If he wants to go to WKU, he'll have to give up one year of NCAA basketball. He appealed. Last week, the NCAA said no.
So this weekend Vincennes University, a junior college in Indiana, announced that Bradley has signed to play there.
Clearly, the NCAA either doesn't believe or doesn't care about Bradley's family excuse. And it doesn't much care that he has given up a four-year college for a two-year school so that he doesn't have to sit out for a third straight season.
If the following sounds a bit angrier than the normal tone, then it has been expressed correctly. What's happening with this kid is shameful.
For starters, Bradley should be able to go to any school willing to give him a scholarship, period. Family health should not even have to enter into it, nor hardship. The kid hasn't played basketball since high school. He has not played a minute of NCAA Division I college basketball. WKU wants to give him a basketball scholarship. He's academically eligible to enroll and play.
That he cannot, that he is being run through this system that is more concerned with its own rules than with the college careers of its student-athletes epitomizes the NCAA at its inflexible, bureaucratic worst -- unless it finally relents and changes course. The rule says if you transfer, you sit out. But he sat out last season. And the one before. Why is this so difficult?
Enes Kanter, I understood. I didn't completely agree, but I understood. Kanter, like it or not, played for a professional basketball club in Turkey for money.
Michael Bradley? Let me tell you where he spent six years.
In a foster home. Bradley went to the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home when he was 11 years old. His father had died of a heart attack years before. Details of what brought him to the home from his rough East Chattanooga neighborhood are sketchy.
This much isn't. For whatever reason, Bradley flourished in that home. He was different. He was the only foster child in his high school to graduate with honors. He posted a score of 27 on the ACT. He amazed people around him. No one is quite sure what caused him to rebound and flourish where so many fall by the wayside and fail.
But here he is. And he applies to the NCAA for a hardship waiver, and is denied?
What do they know about hardship? This isn't just wrong, it's backwards. The NCAA should be about lifting guys like Bradley up, not protecting its transfer precedents.
I'm not one who argues to abolish the NCAA. I think it's important. I think college sports need a strong central authority. But this is the kind of abuse of that authority that makes the organization hard to defend.
Rarely does the NCAA step in to pull the plug on its biggest names, no matter what the transgression. So it's hard to understand when it decides to throw its weight around with athletes who are following the kind of college career that the NCAA mission purports to uphold.
The NCAA has one last chance to do the right thing. A final appeal still is pending. Perhaps, as it did when it relented on the ludicrous notion that Louisville's Gorgui Dieng didn't have the proper academic credentials, the NCAA will make the right call before the final buzzer on this one, too.
Rather than preventing Bradley's transfer, it ought to be more concerned with transferring more of its credibility down the drain.
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