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Bubu Palo case could involve Iowa Supreme Court, be 'significant'

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

An unexpected three-game losing streak, somehow, isn't what's causing the most drama around Iowa State right now.

That's due to a Webster County of Iowa district judge ruling last week Bubu Palo should be allowed to remain on the Iowa State basketball team. Palo was removed from the team last summer after a review by the school's Office of Judicial Affairs. Palo was initially charged with second-degree sexual assault, but those charges were later dropped. After they were dropped, he was dismissed by the school upon a board's review of his case.

Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard said he was "disappointed" in the court's decision to overrule the university. And now USA Today reports the state attorney general's office filed a motion "for an immediate stay of a district court decision" regarding Palo's eligibility.

All of this for a player who averaged 2.8 points in 17 games last season.

The motion argued that "the district court ruling deprives the Board of Regents and Iowa State University of its legal authority to establish and enforce expectations of conduct for students ... and to determine who will have the privilege of representing the university in intercollegiate athletics."

...

The back-and-forth situation has created discussion and debate about legal rights versus extracurricular participation privileges, pitting legal merit against university discretion. ... The attorney general's office, in its motion, indicated that the district court ruling "interferes with the Board of Regents statutory responsibility to prevent and protect against sexual abuse on university campuses."

...

The attorney general's office added: "It damages the public interest when a student is allowed to violate the student code of conduct, particularly the sexual misconduct policy, without being responsible for their actions and having to accept consequences. There is also harm to the entire university community when athletes are treated differently than other students."

The need to seek a resolution to this lies in the fact that ISU is at midseason right now, and the school would like a resolution as soon as possible. Thus the need for the State Supreme Court to weigh in.

The other sticking point here is that Palo's dismissal from the program last summer came five days after he would have been eligible to leave ISU and transfer somewhere else without redshirt penalty. But by having Palo wait, his hands were tied. So he's hired a lawyer to expedite this process.

Palo rejoined the team Monday. The team hasn't played since then, and its next game is Saturday against Kansas State.

How big is the forthcoming decision from the State Supreme Court? Resident NCAA expert on these matters, John Infante over at Athnet, writes that, "If Palo wins, it could be an even more significant legal victory for student-athletes than if the O'Bannon plaintiffs are victorious. Part of the justification for the rules and procedures of both the NCAA and its members is that participation in intercollegiate athletics is a privilege, not a right. ... A victory by a student-athlete in a state supreme court would at the very least reopen the debate about whether athletics participation is a privilege or right."

A role player could -- could -- wind up altering the system and protocol in this regard. And if that becomes the case, what once seemed like a secondary, minor college basketball headline in the 2013 offseason could become one of the bigger turn of events in college athletics in 2014.

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