Are you in good hands, Randolph Morris?

Are these five individuals the wayward Student-Athlete's version of the Allstate "good hands people? Kentucky and Randolph Morris hope so. Shawn Eichorst (South Carolina), Carol Iwaoka (Big Ten), Keith Gill (U. of Oklahoma), Cecil O. Huey, Jr. (Clemson), and Carolyn V. O'Connell (Loyola-Illinois), the members of the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, hold the fate of Randolph Morris-and the UK appeal of the season-long penalty imposed by the NCAA--firmly in their grasp.

The history is well-known. Randolph Morris, a sophomore at the University of Kentucky, completed his freshman season with the Wildcats and decided to enter the NBA draft. Certain steps were taken to permit him to return to Kentucky if things didn't work out with the NBA. He completed his freshman year and remained eligible academically. He did not sign with an agent. He accepted no monies or tangible benefits, other than expenses he believed he could repay to regain eligibility, as well as advice and guidance from SFX, a professional sports agency.

But he was wrong. The expenses that were prepaid by NBA teams for his workouts were a violation of NCAA bylaws. The penalty for violation of those bylaws generally relate to a required repayment of the expenses--to charity, generally--and a game(s) suspension, depending on the amount of the expenses.

He was also wrong about something else. During the process, the Morris family maintained a close relationship with SFX, a professional sports agency whose very connection to Morris raised eyebrows, despite the lack of a formal relationship. With the agency arranging workouts with NBA teams (an item the Morris family denied knowing occurred), and the NBA listing them as the contact for Randolph Morris, and with a fax sent out on Morris' behalf from them announcing he was staying in the draft, the relationship was too close, according to the NCAA rules committee, who found an "assumed acquiescense" by the Morris family to these activities, a matter dooming the player's eligibility.

The NCAA acknowledged that whatever violations occurred, they were done with an apparent lack of knowledge by the Morris family that any violations occurred. This was considered to be a mitigating circumstance in the application of any penalties, the only thing that kept Morris from being permanently ineligible.

Randolph Morris was declared ineligible by the University of Kentucky, as they were required to do, and petitioned for his reinstatement. UK requested that the NCAA penalize Randolph Morris 30% of the season's games--or approximtely 9 or 10 games--based upon violations of two bylaws, and cited case precedents that suggested this would be on the upper scale of punishments for similar behavior. The NCAA reinstatement committee, made up of full-time NCAA staff members, agreed to reinstate Randolph Morris, but with a penalty of a full season's suspension and a loss of the year's eligibility.

From that decision, UK has decided to appeal directly to the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, comprised of the five individuals first described above. Let's take a closer look at these individuals.

Shawn Eichorst is the Senior Associate Athletics Director at the University of South Carolina, a fellow member of the Southeastern Conference. Eichorst is an attorney and former law professor, who has taught classes in Sports Law at the Marquette University Law School. His college days consisted of him playing defensive back at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he was all-conference and a captain of the football team. He later assumed the athletic director's position at UW-Whitewater before moving to South Carolina.

The AEC Cabinet Representative on the Committee, Carol Iwaoka comes from the Big Ten, where she is the Associate Commissioner. Iwaoka's background includes stints on the NCAA's Financial Aid Committee, the NCAA's CCA Compliance (Co-Chair), and a member of the NCAA's administrative committee on Division I academics, eligibility and compliance cabinet. Uwaoka has also been part of the team that developed the Annual Academic Progress Rate (AAPR), a measure to be used to govern how well student-athletes at their schools progress academically. She has a long resume and history with eligibility type issues, and has been involved for many years.

Iwaoka has been an advocate of student-athletes being students first. In a paper she co-wrote two years ago for The NCAA News, she stated, "Now is the time for common sense to prevail and allow student-athletes to earn, receive and accept academic and other non-athletics aid and scholarship money up to the institution's cost of attendance. Now is the time to bring consistency among mission, regulation, rhetoric and reality." (December 22, 2003). The article concluded, "We should expect student-athletes to be students first, but we must provide them with the opportunity to be first-class students."

Keith Gill is the Associate Athletics Director at the University of Oklahoma. Gill played college football at Duke University, and after graduated, spent several years with the NCAA as a full-time compliance representative. His duties there included, among others, rules interpretations and athletic certifications.

After a stint with the NCAA, Gill was hired as the Assistant Athletics Director for Administration and Compliance at Vanderbilt University, where he was responsible for overseeing their rules compliance program. At the age of 33, he was hired by Oklahoma in August, 2004, as associate athletics director in charge of internal governance. Gill is also currently on the NCAA football rules committee.

According to the Dallas Morning News (December 18, 2004), one of his most notable acts was submitting--and having approved--a rare 5th year of eligibility for Dusty Dvoracek, based upon the medical waiver rules for Dvoracek's alcoholism. The NCAA had a 15-year old rules interpretation that said alcoholism could be used for such a waiver. At the time, no one on the NCAA staff could remember it being so used, and due to privacy laws, no confirmation that it was the case with Dvoracek existed then, either.

The Chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee is the Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) at Clemson University, Cecil O. Huey, Jr. Huey is a Professor in Mechanical Engineering, and has served as the FAR since 1992. Huey earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Clemson University, and was also a member of Clemson's track team in 1964.

Huey has served as the Atlantic Coast Conference's representative of Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet of the NCAA, in addition to serving as Chair of the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee.

The Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women's Administrator at Loyola University (Illinois), Carolyn V. O'Connell, is the final member of the five person committee. O'Connell is the sole non-Division I-A member, as a member of the I-AAA Horizon League. O'Connell also assumes the duties of Compliance Coordinator at Loyola. She has previously served as Chair of the 2000-01 Initial Eligibility Waivers Committee of the NCAA, where she participted in a process designed to cut down red tape, called "obvious" or "automatic" waivers.

The "obvious waivers" existed primarily to address clerical oversights by a high school where the student-athlete met all other eligibility requirements, but fell one unit or less short of the core-course requirements. O'Connell called the shortcuts "intercept waivers."

In an interview given to The NCAA News (Gary T. Brown-March 4, 2002), O'Connell said "It was a strategy put together by the membership services staff and the Clearinghouse designed to streamline the process not only for the member school -- but most importantly for the student-athlete," she said. She gave an example she had experienced first-hand of a student-athlete falling one-half unit short for an English course, due to an oversight by the high school, and the evolutionary process resulted in the student-athlete becoming qualified in 48 hours, rather than weeks, due to the "intercepted waiver."

As this article is written, the University of Kentucky is preparing their appeal to these five individuals. The committee appears to be well-versed in matters regarding rules, interpretations and compliance situations. Their experience is varied, but extensive, and in many cases have had significant dealings with individual student-athletes. How this will play with UK's appeal for Randolph Morris, no one knows. According to representatives at the University of Kentucky, a decision is expected by Christmas. Will there be sugar plums and candy canes in the Coach Tubby Smith stocking? Or will lumps of coal and switches be left by the chimney. Only time--and these five individuals--will tell.

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