Two cents worth

After the dust settled from Tuesday afternoon's startling denial by the NCAA to allow transfer QB Jeremiah Masoli to compete in 2010 - pending an appeal - the sadness turned to anger. Read about it inside.

When I got the news that transfer QB Jeremiah Masoli had been denied the opportunity to compete as an Ole Miss Rebel for the 2010 season - pending an appeal, of course - my first thought was sadness for the young man a lot of Rebels, myself included, have grown to know and become quite fond of.

Here's a kid who has been through the wringer. Granted, some of it was from his own doing - there's no denying that - but he had made a sincere and concerted effort to correct things and get on a better path in his still-young life.

He had journeyed far in a short period of time and had put his trust and faith in a process supposedly designed to help young people make a better life for themselves.

Jeremiah Masoli

He had played by the rules. He had done everything asked of him, to the letter, including passing all the criteria for this "second chance" with the NCAA.

He had accepted an offer of paying his own way to Ole Miss for the chance at a graduate degree, whether the sincerity of that is believed or not; an opportunity to play one more year of collegiate football, the best vehicle he has for a brighter future; and redemption for past mistakes.

The American dream, really.

Temporarily shot down, and for no logical reason, at least by any standard of logic I can come up with.

I feel for him. Deeply.

Why? Because in three short weeks I have been fortunate to see his soul and know there's a good one in there, if given another chance to show it. His teammates saw that too. Were you aware that Masoli got enough votes for team captaincy that Coach Houston Nutt could have easily named him a sixth permanent captain, like he did last year with six, and been justified? Bet the NCAA didn't know that one.

That kid, based on what he has shown me, deserves better.

But my sadness for Jermiah quickly turned into anger toward the NCAA for Ole Miss, our university.

What they did - arbitrarily and with lame justification - was pass a subjective ruling that was essentially a slap in our collective faces.

They slapped our chancellor in the face. Even though he stepped aside and allowed the athletic department to pursue Jeremiah if they deemed it prudent and the correct thing to do, everything has to have his ultimate seal of approval. He put his stamp on this deal, which means he put his reputation on the line as well.

Good enough for Dan Jones, good enough for me, and it should have been good enough for the NCAA.

Houston Nutt

They slapped AD Pete Boone and Director of Compliance David Wells squarely in the jaw. Whether you agree with those two or not on every method they use in carrying out their jobs, I have never seen an incident where their integrity should be questioned.

They put their integrity on the line, supporting Jermiah through the whole process. In essence, they said Ole Miss believes in Jeremiah Masoli, so believe in our judgment as honorable members of the NCAA.

The NCAA, with this denial, has, for all intents and purposes, stated they don't trust our athletic leaders' judgment. They don't trust their character. They don't trust their track record.

No matter how you slice it or dice it, that's a slap in the face.

Then, there is Coach Houston Nutt, who did the leg work on this deal. In essence, the NCAA flippantly declared Nutt to be wrong in his pursuit of Jeremiah, despite the countless hours Houston had done in researching the young man, the time it took getting to know him and his family, getting advice on the situation's feasibility, weighing the repercussions of taking on what he knew was something he'd draw some national criticism for, and deciding in his heart his team would accept Masoli.

Yes, the NCAA slapped Nutt in the face too.

So here we have it. In one fell swoop, the NCAA said Jeremiah Masoli did not deserve the opportunity Ole Miss was willing to give him, impuned the integrity and character of our university's chancellor, AD, compliance chief and head coach, and basically sent a message that our collective judgment in the matter meant nothing.

Ole Miss does not deserve that.

Three times, "we" told the NCAA they were wrong about Jerrell Powe. Three times they denied him and us. It turns out they were dead wrong and Ole Miss was right. Jerrell is a model citizen, a team leader and a good student - a credit to this university.

Jeremiah Masoli

You would think the NCAA would learn from that experience to trust what we tell them instead of treating us like a rogue program hellbent on nothing but winning.

Were there "winning" motives in getting Jeremiah Masoli to Ole Miss? Of course there were, but not at all costs. Not at the risk of our integrity and reputation, which, since two probations over a decade and a half ago, has been above board and as spotless as anyone's.

From this rant, you might believe I have no hope in the appeal process. That's not true.

I'm an optimist and a person who believes right eventually wins out. It's the right thing to do to allow Masoli the chance to play this year. Too many people I trust believe that to be so for me to think otherwise.

Hopefully, the NCAA will reconsider and see the light. See that their decision was half-cocked and bordering on ridiculous. See that it did not follow their own rules, that are in black on white on deals like this. See that it is plain wrong.

Until then, I'm sad for Jeremiah and damn angry for my unversity.

When you slap Ole Miss in the face, you slap every Rebel on the planet.

That doesn't sit well with me.

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