The NCAA needs a Director of Common Sense and Decency

I was talking with a friend the other day, after the NCAA announced it was righting a previous wrong pertaining to the eligibility of a former Marine, when I said something meant as a joke that I'm now going to repeat and present with a serious tone.

The NCAA needs a Director of Common Sense and Decency.

Has that ever been clearer than now?

The NCAA should set aside $100,000 from all those ticket sales -- and television contracts, video-game contracts and god-knows-what-else contracts -- and hand it to a decent person with common sense. Then the NCAA should send that person a note about every eligibility waiver denied that asks two very simple and important questions: 1) Is what we're doing here decent? 2) Does it pass a test of common sense?

If the answers are yes and yes, by all means, deny the waiver.

It will probably spark little criticism.

But if the answers are no and no, then it's time to reconsider before the decision becomes available for public consumption. That way the NCAA could theoretically avoid embarrassing moments like the moments it seems to be experiencing now on the regular.

Which brings me to the cases of Donte Hill and Kerwin Okoro.

Have you read about these two guys?

We've posted about them in the blog here and here and here. But college basketball icon Dick Vitale asked me on Twitter late Wednesday to help "bring sense to [NCAA president] Mark Emmert [and the] NCAA in the cases of Kevin Okoro and Donte Hill." So I woke up Thursday and decided I'd do what I can. This is me doing what I can. This is me writing that the NCAA should allow both student-athletes -- Hill at Old Dominion; Okoro at Rutgers -- to play this season in the spirit of common sense and decency.

I mean, what could it possibly hurt?

To continue to deny them the opportunity to play this season would be to continue to punish them because of interpretations of bylaws that fly in the face of common sense and decency. Hill's issue is that he played eight minutes in a preseason and private scrimmage in 2010 that the NCAA is counting as an entire year of eligibility. Okoro's issue is that his father and brother both died last season instead of merely got sick.


The NCAA routinely grants transfer waivers for all sorts of questionable reasons. But the most common waiver is typically granted when a student-athlete wants to play closer to home because an immediate family member -- like, say, a father or a brother -- is suffering from a debilitating injury or illness. So Okoro's waiver would almost certainly be granted if either his father or brother would've suffered a debilitating injury or illness last season and lived. But his father and brother both instead died -- one from a stroke, the other from cancer. And the NCAA essentially concluded that a father and brother dying is somehow not as bad as a father or brother getting sick.

Waiver denied!

And isn't this all just so dumb?

It should sound even dumber when I tell you I know a player who once got a waiver to "transfer closer to home to be near his ailing father" even though the player barely knew his father, who also happened to be in jail. The NCAA granted that waiver. And the NCAA last year granted a waiver to Trey Zeigler, whose father was neither sick nor dead. His father merely lost his job. So I guess you're better off trying to get a waiver to transfer and play immediately if your father loses his job than you are if your father and brother both lose their lives, and I'm about to put my head through a wall.

Now I know what some of you are thinking.

Some of you are thinking about the slippery-slope granting these waivers could create.

To that I say, don't talk to me about your slippery-slope that granting these waivers to Hill and Okoro could create with a precedent because the only precedent it would create is a precedent of common sense and decency. It would create a precedent of the NCAA not penalizing a student-athlete an entire year of eligibility for playing eight minutes in a preseason and private scrimmage. It would create a precedent of the NCAA not penalizing a student-athlete for transferring closer to home after his father and brother both die unexpectedly in a matter of months. Those are the only precedents this would create. And, that said, it's not like the NCAA follows its own precedents anyway. For proof consider that Memphis used a basketball player in 2008 who was retroactively ruled ineligible (because of a standardized test score) and had to vacate the entire season while Ole Miss used a football player in 2012 who was retroactively ruled ineligible (because of a standardized test score) and had to vacate zero games. I'm sure somebody at the NCAA office could try to explain why one school had to vacate games and the other didn't. But I bet the explanation wouldn't make much sense to you or me or most.


Because inconsistencies like that don't make sense.

And what the NCAA has done to Hill and Okoro doesn't make sense, either.

It's obviously wrong.

It's undeniably stupid.

The NCAA needs a Director of Common Sense and Decency.

I'm not even joking about that anymore.

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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