It seems the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is in the holiday spirit. The union has voted to allow Cameron Rodriguez to keep the $20,000 he won after hitting a half-court shot at a recent Oklahoma City Thunder game.
There was doubt whether Rodriguez -- who plays at Southwestern College (Winfield, Kan.) -- would be able to keep the money, since he won it based off basketball talent. NAIA rules prohibit players from profiting off their skill set in a specific sport, but in this case Rodriguez was randomly chosen at the Thunder game before he banged home the half-courter.
With the stipulation that the money go toward his tuition at the school, Rodriguez, 23, will be allowed to keep the money and stay on the team.
"We're pleased with the decision from the membership and specifically the NEC that allows Cameron to keep his winnings to use towards his education," Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO said in a statement. "We feel the NAIA is the student-centered association in collegiate athletics, and this decision by our membership reflects that emphasis."
Rodriguez hit the shot on Nov. 18. Soon thereafter he notified his concerns to the NAIA over whether he was eligible to keep the money. That action in the end helped his case.
"We are proud of our student-athlete for doing the right thing in contacting his coach before he did anything," Southwestern College president Dick Merriman said. "We are also proud of the NAIA for doing the right thing in their ruling. I am pleased with this outcome."
Southwestern's annual tuition is $23,000, according to Bloomberg News, and only $4,000 of that is lopped off due to athletic scholarships. This money will go a long way to easing Rodriguez's transition once he finishes school.
Good on you, NAIA. By the by, his team is 6-3 this season.