NCAA reverses decision, will allow Colgate player eligibility for 2013-14

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

UPDATE: An NCAA source tells CBSSports.com that Nathan Harries' situation has been resolved and that he'll be immediately eligible for the upcoming season. Below is the text from our story Thursday morning, when his status was ineligible for all of the 2013-14 season.

If we're ever talking about a freshman at Colgate, you know the story has to be wild.

And if we're ever talking about a freshman at Colgate dealing with the NCAA, you know the story has to be pretty bad -- for the NCAA.

Meet Nathan Harries, the latest case of why the NCAA is inconsistent -- and all too often unfair -- when it comes to eligibility cases for players who've done essentially nothing wrong ... yet get punished anyway. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailed Harries' case Wednesday. It has since picked up steam and garnered national attention.

It deserves the attention. The NCAA's decision -- which was reportedly made Oct. 21 -- deserves a reversal. It is currently under appeal by Colgate. Harries, a kid with great grades and someone attending an elite academic institution, has been turned into the latest example of what the NCAA believes is consistent justice.

Anything but.

The gist of it, via the AJC's story:

He was a high achiever academically, graduated in 2011 with honors and was recruited by programs such as Princeton, Penn and Bucknell. But as a devout Mormon, Harries delayed college for two years to serve a religious mission in North Carolina. This fall, after two years of religious studies, ministering and serving the community, Harries enrolled at Colgate, with the expectation of playing basketball beginning with the season opener Friday against Wake Forest.

But the NCAA has stripped him of one season of eligibility, and you won't believe why. The governing body ruled that Harries played this past summer in an organized and competitive basketball league before enrolling at Colgate. In truth, Harries actually was just a fill-in for three games for a “C” level team in a relative church basketball league. Most players are in their 30s; one team is largely comprised of players in their 50s. According to one player, Matt Adams, a 36-year-old high school teacher, “We had one guy who played with us and he was like, ‘If any of you have any advice you could give me that would be great because I never played basketball before.'”

For as much as the NCAA attempts to work in black and white, if there was ever a need for a pragmatic worldview, it's here. Reasonable minds could distinguish that, if the info is true, Harries was gaining no true competitive advantage over his peers by playing in a church league for men with children nearly as old/as old as Harries himself.

The fact it was "organized basketball" is the reason why Harries' freshman season was taken away. If it's a pickup game, then he's fine. But organized league play of any kind outside of sanctioned D-I basketball is strictly forbidden. It's why players have lost seasons of eligibility in the past, most recently Donte Hill at Old Dominion. (If Harries' story angers you, Hill's career being ended by the NCAA over this may cause you to smash furniture.)

The rule Harries "violated" obviously exists for a good reason. The NCAA isn't entirely incompetent. You can't have players being able to play in organized basketball leagues outside of D-I sanctions, otherwise things could get out of hand to some extent. But there has to be discernment, and if the NCAA is going to take case-by-case evalutions when it comes to players transferring and seeking eligibility, then it should look at Harries' situation with the same forgiving, common-sense lens.

If the Monolith up in Indianapolis could do the right thing with a Marine, who was initially deemed ineligible (and then later made eligible) for playing in football scrimmages while serving for the United States, then it can do the same for Harries here.

 
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