VETTEL: NCAA Blew It With Morris

Just ten days after praising the NCAA for delivering a critically important message to guys who want to tryout for the NBA while maintaining their college eligibility I have to write the exact opposite. The NCAA decision to reduce Randolph Morris' suspension to 14 games instead tells NBA wannabes on college campuses there is little risk to taking money and agreeing to be represented by an agent.

This inconceivably stupid ruling lets Randolph accept nearly ten thousand dollars worth of good and services, clearly align himself with a sports agent firm and miss just half a season. He doesn't even miss the important part, the SEC race and the post-season.

It's stunning that Kentucky is so eager to welcome him back, considering he left the team and declared for the draft without speaking with Coach Tubby Smith. He subsequently refused to return his coach's calls during the interim period and only after the NBA draft informed him he was not needed at the next level did he look into staying in school.

Three Key Dates

May 9: Randolph Morris sends a fax to Coach Tubby Smith declaring his intention to "test the waters" as it relates to the NBA draft. His fax includes the phrase: "my intent is not to obtain an agent so as to maintain my collegiate eligibility. Morris never spoke with Smith and did not return his calls. Later that month sports agency SFX arranges for Morris to workout in Chicago for NBA teams.

June 21: SFX releases a statement from Morris that he has decided to remain in the draft. Morris goes undrafted and the fact an agency announced his decision seems to end his collegiate eligibility.

July 5: The Atlanta Hawks announce their roster for the NBA summer league season, and Morris is on the list of players.

Now folks, this isn't tough to figure. Somehow the Hawks were under the impression that they had an arrangement with Randolph Morris. It's obvious the agency SFX HAD a relationship with him. And yet he's reinstated because of a fax that announces his "intent" to maintain eligibility? Wow!

Remember Mo Collins

Back in the mid-90's Mo Collins took a reported $500 from a would-be agent to cover a plane ticket back home. He missed six games. Pretty significant punishment, half a season for $500. Randolph Morris took anywhere from 14-to-20 times as much AND agreed to have an agent represent him and gets the same punishment? That's simply outrageous. And the kid doesn't even have to re-pay the $$$ he received before he starts playing.

The bottom line is keeping student-athletes away from agents just became a whole lot tougher. Keeping kids from dragging out their NBA draft decisions just got a whole lot tougher. And respecting the ability of the NCAA to handle any tricky situation without screwing it up royally is now damn near impossible.

Is the SEC Office Open?

The SEC has stepped in where the NCAA has come up short in the past and it will be interesting to see if the league office will look into this fiasco at all. Competitive integrity is supposed to matter and the reinstatement of an athlete who violated virtually every rule regarding involvement with agents has to be troubling. At the very least the SEC should get the answer to a couple of questions:

1. How is the repayment being handled? Who is coming up with the money and how? If Morris qualifies for and received Pell Grant funds, how can family afford to raise this cash?

2. Why did the Hawks list him on the roster? Did he ever sign a short-term contract with them?

3. Is there anything documenting the relationship between Morris and SFX. Is he going to repay them for the value of services they rendered?

Morris Not Evil

Don't take any of this to indicate I have issues with the kid, because I don't. Morris' comments in the aftermath of the NCAA's gift seemed quite contrite. He's a kid who followed bad advice because, like most of us, he listens to things he wants to hear. He was a good played for Kentucky last year, not a great one. Still there's no arguing a kid who averaged 8.8 points and 4 rebounds as a freshman ought to be a big help to a team with no inside scoring. Maybe he leads the Wildcats to a SEC Title. If he does, so be it.

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