College Basketball Insider

The Kerwin Okoro case at Rutgers has changed NCAA guidelines

Kerwin Okoro didn't just get a waiver to play immediately last Friday.

He also changed NCAA policy.

Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's vice president of academic and membership affairs, told on Monday that there is now a guideline in place to allow student-athletes to play immediately at a new institution if they transfer after the death of an immediate family member, and Lennon added that the new guideline is a direct result of Okoro's case that gained national attention (and outrage).

Here are the details: Okoro played at Iowa State last season but decided to move closer to his New York home after his father (from a stroke) and brother (from colon cancer) both died in a span of three months. The 6-foot-5 guard applied for a waiver to play at Rutgers without having to sit out the normal one year for a Division I transfer. But that waiver was initially denied even though waivers are routinely granted to players who transfer closer to home to be near an ailing family member.

This made little sense to most observers.

Why should having an ailing family member be considered more of a hardship by the NCAA than actually losing a family member (or two)? The answer is that it shouldn't ... but the guidelines weren't written in a way to allow waivers for cases like Okoro's because his situation was obviously unique. The committee, Lennon said, realized this and has now recommended that the guideline be adjusted to take an immediate family member's death into consideration. In other words, going forward, if a player applies for a waiver to transfer closer to home and play without sitting out a season after an immediate family member's death, that waiver will be granted. So credit Okoro with opening an avenue for any player who finds himself in a similarly awful situation rooted in a tragic loss.

"The committee, when they reexamined this as a part of their regular review of the directives and the guidelines, made a revision and then said, 'OK, staff. In this kind of an instance, moving forward, we're going to establish a new guideline for you to approve these,'" Lennon said."And that's what happened. ... This is an instance where the committee, in its authority as a membership body, said 'We now want you to look at these kinds of cases differently.' ... So if somebody transfers after the death of an immediate family member, now the staff is armed with guidelines from the committee that says, 'We want you to look at this differently.' That's the guideline moving forward."

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.
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