Seldom has the hypocrisy that’s at the foundation of bigtime college sports been more evident than in a couple of events that occurred last week. One involved a former college freshman leaving school, the other the upcoming new television contract for one of the Power Five conferences. While not seemingly related, when viewed within the total lens of NCAA issues they are illustrative of just how totally ridiculous the NCAA’s organizational stance has been for many years, and how completely at odds what they say is in terms of how they operate.

James Wiseman, an 18-year-old seven-foot center who moved to Memphis from Nashville two years ago, announced Thursday that he had withdrawn from the University of Memphis. Wiseman was already sitting out a suspension from the NCAA due to the fact that two years ago his current coach Penny Hardaway, then not formally affiliated with the school, had given his parents $11,500 to help defray moving expenses from Nashville to Memphis.

At that time, no one knew that Hardaway would eventually become Memphis’ head coach. Because he’d donated over a million dollars to the university, Hardaway was classified as a booster under NCAA rules, thereby he couldn’t get involved in recruiting. But two years later he’s the school’s head coach and directly involved in it. The NCAA didn’t tell the school they couldn’t hire Hardaway, nor did they tell them  if he recruited particular players it might land them in trouble, despite the fact that prior to his hiring Hardaway was a prominent AAU coach and it was well known he was familiar with all the top players in the state of Tennessee.

Now along comes James Wiseman. When he announced he was coming to Memphis, the NCAA at the time didn’t say he would be ineligible. They let him get enrolled, play three games, and THEN made the decision that he was ineligible. Their reason was they had just discovered Wiseman’s family had received the money from Hardaway.. Amazing, since everyone else in the state with any connections to basketball knew it. So they decided to suspend Wiseman 12 games, plus make him repay the $11,500. Wiseman first sued the NCAA, then withdrew the suit, while the school appealed the decision. Their appeal was denied. Wiseman finally had his fill of the whole thing and left school to prepare for the 2020 draft, where he’ll be one of the top five selections, if not the first. He averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and three blocks in those games, despite playing only an average of 23 minutes per game. While he’s certainly not a polished or experienced player yet, his potential is enormous. 

Numerous fans of the school denounced the NCAA’s actions. Making the NCAA look even worse was the announcement made Friday by CBS Sports that they were backing out of talks for a new broadcast deal with the SEC. The reason was their $300 million bid was deemed too low by the NCAA/SEC types. They’re going to get even more than that from either ESPN/ABC or Fox Sports. So on the one hand, while essentially forcing an 18-year-old to depart school early over an $11,500 gift made to his parents, on the other SEC schools will see an enormous boost in TV money beginning in 2023. The old deal was 55 million for a 15-game package. 

The hubris here is beyond measure. While riding herd on youngsters and trying to prevent them from getting anything beyond a scholarship and some lightweight stipend money, schools and coaches are making millions off the contributions of those same athletes. How anyone defends that system is beyond me.

The one good thing is change is on the horizon. The new measure allowing college athletes to benefit from their images and likenesses being used takes effect in 2023, though it’s only a state measure at this point. The NCAA is discussing how to make a similar national deal for all its members, while talks are proceeding with the NBA to abolish the equally ridiculous one and done rule that forces high school players to either attend at least one year of college, or play internationally before becoming draft eligible.

Eventually these farces will end. But until then, youngsters like James Wiseman are hurt by unrealistic and unfair policies.