The NCAA has suspended five University of Richmond baseball players because they took part in Fantasy football.

As John O’Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, two of the suspended players -- junior right-hander Keenan Bartlett and senior INF/DH Kurtis Brown -- are among the Spiders’ most valuable contributors this season. The five players will remain suspended until the NCAA completes the reinstatement process. 

Here’s the full statement originally released by the university:

“The University of Richmond athletics department has reported NCAA secondary violations impacting the eligibility of five student-athletes on the baseball team.  In full cooperation with the NCAA, the athletic department fully investigated and reported the violations, which the NCAA has recently determined were secondary in nature.

As a result of these violations, these five student-athletes will be ineligible for competition until the NCAA’s reinstatement process has been completed.

The University of Richmond is committed to complying with all NCAA rules and regulations.  Under NCAA rules, the University of Richmond is obligated to monitor and self-report violations as they occur and all student-athletes and staff handled this situation with integrity, were completely forthcoming and cooperative with the investigation.  The athletics department will not make any further comments about this matter.”

The suspension is a function of the fact that the NCAA treats standard Fantasy leagues just like gambling. Here’s the relevant rule for student-athletes:

“You are not eligible to compete if you knowingly participate in any sports wagering activity that involves intercollegiate, amateur or professional athletics, through a bookmaker, a parlay card or any other method employed by organized gambling. Examples of sports wagering include, but are not limited to, the use of a bookmaker or parlay card; internet sports wagering; auctions in which bids are placed on teams, individuals or contests; and pools or Fantasy leagues in which an entry fee is required.”

Rules are rules, of course, but to prevent college students from participating in Fantasy sports, even paid-entry leagues, is “over-involved” in the extreme. Also -- and is the case with so many other matters under its purview -- the NCAA sends out very mixed signals on this front ... 

A rules-enforcing apparatus typically benefits by having more rules, but the NCAA would do well to not treat something as benign as playing Fantasy football as a gateway to, I dunno, throwing games at the behest of a crime syndicate. This kind of thing also doesn’t work against the perception that the NCAA homes in on this kind of patently inconsequential stuff while selectively enforcing its rules when it comes to flagship programs in flagship sports.