CF.C Commentary: The case of Mr. Willis

<b>THE COUGAR SECONDARY next week will be one shy of those who were expected to take the field this spring. Michael Willis, the phenomenal football player and gem of the 2006 class who qualified back in December, won't be participating in the spring sessions due to the NCAA having not yet certified his test score.

Until the NCAA gives the thumbs-up, Willis is ineligible to receive a dime of scholarship assistance from Washington State. As such, he is enrolled at WSU as a part-time student and therefore cannot participate in spring ball which commences on Tuesday.

The pace and manner in which the NCAA has treated this issue is -- to put it nicely -- difficult to fathom. Willis passed the SAT back in December. Regardless of why the NCAA is holding up his certification -- Willis passed it by a higher margin than they apparently expected -- it is penal for this process to remain unresolved three months later.

On the occasion he achieved the qualifying score, Willis had for the first time prepared with a tutor. The tutor helped him study for not just the content, but for the SAT itself. Willis told CF.C after he passed the test that the different approach made all the difference, describing it as night and day compared to previous attempts.

Delays and rabid inconsistencies from the NCAA are, unfortunately, nothing new.

Every year, scores of players are held out of fall camps while the NCAA Clearinghouse slogs through test scores and transcripts with all the urgency of a three-toed sloth about to take a nap. Last year, Jerome Harrison and Andy Roof had to sit out a number of fall practices before receiving the green light from the NCAA.

The sentiment is in the right place. No one should gain admission just because he's a great football player. But it's absurd the amount of time it takes the NCAA to grant eligibility --- in some cases. Because there have been student athletes who've received more consideration than others.

Oklahoma's Jason White was granted a sixth year on December 19, 2003, a mere six days after he won the Heisman Trophy. Comparatively, Cougar safety Virgil Williams had to wait until deep into the spring of the next year before receiving his sixth year -- this, despite virtually the exact same circumstances as White.

Amidst numerous allegations involving violence, including out-of-court settlements, Oklahoma kicked Dusty Dvoracek off the team after a highly publicized incident in September. Oklahoma reconsidered a few months later, applying for a medical hardship waiver in mid-December to allow the senior another year. The Big 12 Conference promptly denied the request but within a week -- yes, within 7 days -- the NCAA had moved at light speed to grant Dvoracek an extra year.

If Michael Willis was in some place like Norman, rather than Pullman, would he still be waiting on the NCAA so he can receive his first scholarship check?

Would he and his family had to have gone through the stress associated with these past three months? Would his sense of accomplishment at working his academic tail off have been muted by the NCAA for this long a time?

There's little doubt Michael Willis will at some point receive clearance from the NCAA -- but when is anyone's guess. When that day finally does arrive, it won't come with an NCAA apology. It should.

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