NCAA: Friend or Foe?

In the midst of an extremely frustrating ordeal, Ryan Kessman is trying to keep a positive outlook. Kessman planned to follow in the footsteps of fellow wide receiver McKay Jacobson and enroll early at BYU. His goal was within reach until the NCAA clearing house reared its ugly head. Now Kessman is focused on an NCAA appeal instead of taking college classes and playing a college sport.

Like a banner waiving on high, the NCAA states boldly that their purpose is: "To celebrate, sustain and generate broad support for the very positive role intercollegiate athletics play in our society through high-quality programs that enhance the present and future experience of the student-athlete, to build awareness of the positive impact of the intercollegiate athletics, and to pursue gift resources to independently support these activities."

Last December, Cougar wide receiver commit Ryan Kessman graduated early from high school with the intent of enrolling early at BYU to join his future teammates and coaches and preparing himself for his future at BYU. Earlier this month, Kessman packed his bags and headed to Provo. Today, the talented receiver/return man is back home in San Jacinto, California waiting for a cumbersome NCAA review to figure out what he needs to do in order to, ironically, fulfill the dreams stated within the NCAA's own mission statement.

When the Kessmans lived in Hemet, California and Ryan attended a private Christian school from the end of his junior year while his family built a new home in San Jacinto. The Kessmans move into San Jacinto at the end of the summer so Ryan could complete his senior year at San Jacinto High School.

"It was a lot of hard work because I had to obviously take a lot more classes than usual," said Kessman. "From the day I started those classes to the day I started back at San Jacinto it was work, work, work every single day. I had to do books, I had to do reports, I had to do tests, and it was just a lot of hard work that I had to do to reach my goal of getting everything done to graduate early because I thought in the end it would pay off.

"When I transferred back to San Jacinto I had already committed to BYU and knew of their high academic standards. I knew I had to pick it a bit to get those 3.5 and 4.0 grades because I knew that's what BYU wanted, so when I transferred back into San Jacinto I picked up my grades and redid two classes so I could get my GPA up higher. I ended up getting a 3.6 during my last semester. I passed the high school exit exam with flying colors in both English and math. San Jacinto said I was good to go and they tagged me with a diploma on December 22, 2006, which is when I got my final transcripts with my diploma. The week, I think it was the 8th of January, we drove up to Provo, Utah."

About a half-hour outside of Provo, the Kessman family received a phone call.

"All of a sudden we were about a half an hour out of Provo and we get a call saying my grades weren't accepted," Ryan said. "We were like, 'Hold on a second there.' We met with the coaches and Jim Kimmel on what needs to be done, what was happening and going on."

To Kessman's family, friends, and former high school coaches, it would soon become apparent that the NCAA is not quite living up to its mission of enhancing present and future experiences at least when it comes to this particular student-athlete. It will not likely be long until BYU fans and supporters from all across the country will join the throng to cast their stones of disdain towards the bureaucracy that is the NCAA.

"At first, the NCAA was concerned about why I was taking algebra 1A for two semesters," Kessman said. "We had to go through that whole thing and get a letter from our head counselor saying that at our high school they didn't offer anything other than algebra 1A, so that's what they had to mark down."

"The math issue is so absurd that it doesn't make any sense," said Ryan's father Steve Kessman. "Ryan is efficient on all levels of mathematics and the next level of mathematics would be trigonometry. He took all the math that was necessary at the school but they said that he needed algebra 1B, which San Jacinto does not offer. That is why he took a full semester of algebra 1A and finished the whole book and got an A in it. San Jacinto does not offer an algebra 1B class, so even though he has the 14 core credits required by the NCAA they are asking for 14 and a half now because they don't want to give him credit for that full year but only half the year."

San Jacinto head coach Bill Powers agrees Steve about the ridiculous antics of the NCAA.

"In my opinion there is a math class in question that we didn't offer," said Powell. "They wanted an algebra 1B, and we don't offer that class any more. [Ryan] has shown competence here in mathematics because not only did he pass two higher level math courses [than algebra 1B] he's also passed the California High School exit exam in mathematics, so he's shown proficiency in the area of mathematics. I just feel bad because we didn't offer that course [algebra 1B] at the time, and it's my understanding that students are given the option of either going and taking a full year of algebra or moving up in the next step in our sequence of mathematics in our curriculum and that's geometry."

In fact, Ryan took classes much harder than the algebra 1B class the NCAA is asking for. San Jacinto's core curriculum, which does not include an algebra 1B class, has been accepted by the NCAA.

"He chose to go to geometry which he also passed as well as algebra two and the high school exit exam, so to me, he's shown adequate competency in the area of mathematics," said Coach Powell. "The NCAA should show some compassion and be willing to accept the fact that our school has said he has completed all mathematics requirements for graduation, and he has demonstrated competency in the area of mathematics based on the California high school exit exam. I think they should have some compassion in this situation and give him an opportunity to go to Brigham Young University.

"I think it's kind of crappy, and it would be one thing if he didn't do well in his other classes or pass our state's examination that allowed him to graduate in the first place. I just think this is kind of ridiculous. They're kind of holding his whole future in their hand. He gets out there to go to school and from what I can tell the NCAA just doesn't seem to be to compassionate about the situation, and that's wrong. The NCAA is there to work with the student athletes and first of all the students."

What makes this issue with the NCAA even harder to swallow is that a few years ago, San Jacinto High School placed a kicker on a D-I team when San Jacinto fewer classes approved as part of the NCAA core academic requirement.

"I have a kicker, Sergio McGuire, who's already at UNLV," said Coach Powell. "The only difference between when he went and Ryan is we've added more classes. We haven't taken any away and I think we've added one or two courses to our approved list of core classes the NCAA will take."

The NCAA also requested that the Kessmans provide all of the work Ryan did while attending the private Christian high school.

"They were asking many, many questions about that, so we provided them everything we could about that, but then the NCAA wanted to see all of my books and work that I had done while I was at the private Christian school," said Ryan. "They were asking to see all of my work that I had done close to over a year ago. I guess they expect kids to keep every single paper, every page of work they do rather than accept the grades given by the teachers from a school in which the curriculum has already been accepted by the NCAA. They wanted to see every bit of work that I had done while I was there instead of taking the grades of the teachers that have been approved by the school. It doesn't make sense to me and is very frustrating."

Prior to returning home, the Kessmans received a surprising accusation from the NCAA that no longer focused on the algebra 1B issue. While still in Provo and with time left for Ryan to enroll at BYU, the Kessmans were questioned about a jump in Ryan GPA.

"At first the NCAA was concerned about the math issue of me taking algebra 1A for two semesters at San Jacinto, which doesn't offer algebra 1B," Ryan said. "They got that letter and then they [NCAA] sent us a big packet back, while we were at a hotel in Provo, asking why did my grades jump up so high after transferring from a private Christian school to San Jacinto."

"The private Christian school was approved by the NCAA," said Steve Kessman. "Now they are questioning the grades Ryan got while attending this private Christian high school, and now they want to see the course curriculum. We spent two weeks in Provo and, although Ryan wasn't enrolled, because he wasn't allowed to be enrolled or do any weight training or anything like that, at BYU he did attend class so he wouldn't get behind in case this was able to be straightened out while we were in Provo.

"So while we were waiting the NCAA came back and said they wanted to see his curriculum such as his final exams, his reports and his essays which we did not have while we were there in Provo. So now we had to come back home to get all this stuff because normally this is stuff people don't keep, and fortunately the school had kept all of his stuff and we're in the process of getting all of this stuff together to send back to the NCAA because we have 30 days to appeal."

It appears the NCAA is now questioning why Ryan's GPA jumped so high while attending this private Christian high school.

"After we provided them with that, now they are going, 'Well why did your grades jump so high?'" said Ryan. "I told them the reason why my grades jumped so high was because I committed to BYU and worked hard to get my GPA up because their standards are a lot higher. Now it seems they are going after the things that I can't provide like all my papers that I did from over a year ago. It just seems like they are going against me and are now trying to find something to keep me from graduating to play football at BYU. The NCAA is coming at me with everything and I'm just like, 'You know what, bring it.' I'm going to provide you with everything I can so you can't deny me.

"When I was attending a private Christian high school it was a lot of hard work because I had the goal of graduating early. It was a lot of hard work from the day I got my first book to the day I transferred back to San Jacinto, but whenever I felt I needed to take a break from all the extra work, I just thought of how great it was going to be with my future teammates at BYU. That really helped me to endure all the hard work when ever I wanted to slow down or take a break. I just thought how great it was going to be playing with my brothers up at BYU. Sometimes I would be up until midnight doing my school work thinking I can't give up because I don't want to let anyone down, and want to get up to BYU to be with my band of brothers. That was my motivation when the work got tough. I gotta be with my band of brothers. Then all this stuff from the NCAA comes up, and it's just been horrible for me."

One comfort Kessman received during his time of personal came from the BYU coaches.

"Having the coaches by my side has been really helpful," Ryan said. "The support from the coaches the first day they found out about this has been great. I got a call from Coach Higgins saying, 'Hang in there.' It makes me feel a lot better knowing that the coaches that I'm going to be with for the next four years will be by my side helping me out to get through this. I know that I'm not in this by my self but that I have the support from the coaches with them by my side. That has helped out a lot."

The ordeal has been very difficult for Kessman, who did all that was asked of him but was still denied.

"It's been really heartbreaking for me," Kessman said. "You know I made my parents proud by not only graduating but graduating early from San Jacinto, and going onto BYU and playing football during spring ball. Then all of a sudden all of my dreams of playing football at BYU got shot down when the NCAA came with all of this. Obviously, this is very hard for me. I got my family to take me up to Utah, everything seems cleared for me to go. I'm ready for college life and to play football, then this comes up from the NCAA at the last minute."

Along with his family, Kessman's former high school coach is frustrated with the lack of cooperation from the NCAA in finding out what needs to be done in order for his former star to be accepted.

"This is ridiculous and I feel bad about it," said Coach Powell. "I'm feel like I kind of let him down. I'm doing all that I can about it, but they just seem like they just don't want to budge on this thing. I will do whatever I need to do, just tell me what it is. Tell me what you will be okay with and I'll do it, and they won't give me any answers there. They're just giving him the run around, and I don't get it. You know, what's this kid ever done? All he did was graduated early and tried to get in so he could go through spring practice to give himself a better chance to play. A lot of kids do that now a days, and he's no different than anybody else."

"I don't understand why the NCAA didn't take my grades," said a somber Ryan Kessman. "The NCAA has qualified the schools, but then they don't qualify my grades from the school, which is really absurd."

The plan right now is to figure out what the NCAA wants and simply do it. That is if anyone can figure out what the NCAA wants.

"I'm going to get all of my previous work and information over to the NCAA so that they can't deny me because I've provided them with every bit and piece," said Kessman. "Obviously then if they try to deny me it will be like, 'Come on, I've provided you guys with everything you've asked for. Now it's just like you guys are trying to not get me to go to college or play football at BYU.' Right now, my plan is just do whatever I can to get enrolled as soon as I can. Hopefully everything will go through."

"One way or another we're going to get this taken care of," said Coach Powell. " We're in the process of figuring out what we can do to get that other half of that unit where he can at least get cleared in June. It just seems kind of unfortunate that he's having to go through all of this based on the fact that he's already shown competency in the one area that's in question.

"We're looking at other options in core areas as a possibility. He's already fulfilled all the math requirements required by the NCAA. We're looking at other options like an upper level science course he can take for a semester to help get him that half credit. It's not like Ryan has tried to do something shady or behind anybody's back or anything like that. He has, not only through our district, but through the state of California, shown proficiency. It's not like our district is trying to pull one over on the NCAA or anything like that."

Given the NCAA's painfully thorough approach to his situation – and that is putting it nicely – Kessman sees a silver lining to this cloud on the start to his college career.

"It would have been a total disaster if this would have happened in August," Ryan said. "I would have preferred for this not to have happened at all, but if the NCAA was going to do this, I would have preferred it happen now than later. Either way it's horrible, but I would rather get whatever they're asking for taken care of now so I can be with my brothers at BYU on September 1st for our first game."

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