Indiana will be without two freshman frontcourt players for its first nine games.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Dick Vitale called the NCAA's decision to suspend two Indiana University basketball freshmen, "ABSURD." I can hear him delivering the words in ALL CAPS.
Jay Bilas, one of Vitale's ESPN sidekicks, said the same thing - with different words. He called the ruling "laughable."
Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News wondered if it is the "most curious amateurism case," in NCAA history. Dan Dakich, another ESPN analyst, interviewed IU coach Tom Crean on his radio show Wednesday. Dakich is balding but sounded ready to pull out his remaining hair over the decision.
Here's what I say: Better to find out about NCAA eligibility issues before any games are played. That way victories and Final Four appearances do not get vacated.
It's easy to line up on the side of kicking the NCAA. Just as it was when the organization ruled against Enes Kanter and Kentucky, Guy-Marc Michel and Indiana, Muhammed Lasege and Louisville or (fill in the blank of another player and school).
The list goes on. And on. There are others. There will be more.
Sometimes the NCAA hits. Sometimes the NCAA misses. Usually your take on whether it is a hit or miss depends upon which bench you call home. What's interesting about this one is it stirred strong and persistent squawking from the middle ground.
Indiana fans seem uniformly outraged by the nine games that Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin will miss, keeping them on the sidelines for the top-ranked Hoosiers' games against North Carolina and Georgia. They'll sit until IU plays Butler in Indianapolis Dec. 15.
Nine games without two promising inside players is a legitimate penalty for Crean to navigate, especially with senior forward Derek Elston on the sidelines after knee surgery. Indiana is playing for a Number One seed in the NCAA Tournament. The difference between a top Seed and a three-seed could easily be a loss or two in November or early December.
At Indiana they see the players as two innocent kids from South Sudan (Jurkin) and Colombia (Mosquera-Perea) who received a few basic items from somebody who was responsible for bringing them to this country and then coached them in AAU basketball.
Once upon a time, more than 20 years ago, he and his ex-wife donated less than $200 to an IU booster organization, information that Indiana self-reported to the NCAA while cooperating with the investigation.
Where's the evil – and unfair recruiting advantage in that? Especially when the record shows that this individual also welcomed and mentored other players who eventually attended UCLA, Tennessee, Michigan State and at least nine other schools.
The non-IU world is outraged that the NCAA didn't do more. They see the Indiana Elite/A-HOPE pairing that the two players participated in as a recruiting advantage that benefits the Hoosiers, creating a talent pipeline for Crean to tap. My sense is that the NCAA's fervor in pursuing this case was inspired by complaints from other schools – and their frustration in not finding more.
The NCAA is the most convenient piñata in sports. I'm not a conspiracy theory person. I don't believe that the NCAA enforcement folks lean on some programs and look the other way with other coaches and teams. They do the best they can. They operate without substantive power to investigate. The NCAA rulebook is difficult to navigate, more difficult to interpret and even harder to enforce.
They make rulings. Some are absurd. Some are reasonable. Programs navigate the rulings and move on. It's as much a part of today's college basketball climate as scholarship limitations and the cloudy world of unofficial recruiting visits.
This time Indiana was a loser in the debate, although it could have been worse. Vitale calls it "absurd." Bilas prefers "laughable." Others will howl about why the NCAA didn't do more.
Doesn't matter. The two Indiana freshmen sit the nine games. The season starts Friday. It will go on.