MADISON - Wisconsin will not have the services of freshman Andy Van Vliet for the 2015-16 season, as the Belgium native has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA. He was initially ruled ineligible on November 4 and the athletic department appealed the decision. They were notified Tuesday before its 78-64 victory over North Dakota that the decision was upheld by an a five-member panel made up of officials from other NCAA member institutions.
"I saw it coming," said Van Vliet following the game. "It's hard to prepare for something like this, but you have to live with it."
NCAA rules state that prospective student-athletes have one year to enroll in a collegiate institution following their high school graduation or expected graduation date. Van Vliet played basketball as an amateur outside of that one-year window, which has resulted in him sitting this season and losing a year of eligibility. Van Vliet didn't know of the issue until after he had committed to Wisconsin in the spring and didn't think it would be an issue until he had to sit out UW's exhibition game against UW-River Falls.
According to a UW official, Van Vliet’s grades slipped during his junior in high school due to an illness that struck a member of his family. Van Vliet repeated that grade, knowing that he needed to in order to get into a higher-level university, and eventually graduated in 2014. Instead of enrolling in college and being eligible for the 2014-15 season, Van Vliet played last season as an amateur with the Antwerp Giants in his native Belgium. Van Vliet had also played three seasons with the Belgium national team.
“There’s no question he can do the work here. And he wasn’t doing it to do anything other than improve his chances of being admitted into a school like ours,” UW coach Bo Ryan said of Van Vliet repeating his junior year of high school. “And you lose a year and sit a year because you’re trying to get a better education? And you know about how I am about some of those other rules, but this one doesn’t make any sense.”
Van Vliet was one of five scholarship freshmen in the 2015 recruiting class. The other four - Alex Illikainen, Khalil Iverson, Brevin Pritzl and Charlie Thomas - have all seen minutes in the Badgers' first two nonconference games. He plans to spend the next year getting stronger, one of his biggest weaknesses entering this season.
"This is a great opportunity for me to get stronger," said Van Vliet. "It's tough, but I have to try to make the best out of it and just keep working hard. helping the guys on the team as much as I can by just practicing as hard as I can and getting better."