The NCAA has made plenty of questionable decisions over the years. Their latest ruling may cost a freshman basketball player at Colgate University a year of athletic eligibility.
The player surrounded by the controversy is Nathan Harries, an Alpharetta, Georgia native. Harries is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Instead of enrolling in college immediately after high school, he went on his Mormon mission. After returning from the mission in August, Harries knew he needed to get in shape before heading off to play basketball at Colgate, so he played three games in his local church basketball league.
Months later, his seemingly harmless decision to play in a few pickup games may cost him his freshman basketball season. The NCAA told Harries recently that he violated a rule prohibiting current college athletes from playing in organized sports leagues outside of the NCAA.
His father, Michael, recently expressed his frustration with the ruling.
"As you can imagine, it's very frustrating for Nathan and for us," Michael said. "The NCAA is trying to discourage players from getting an unfair advantage by playing in high-level leagues, but that's absolutely not the case here. This was a typical after-work league in Atlanta, some former high school players and some who haven't played hardly at all. Nobody's in the gym except the teams and the referees. It's organized, but it's an old man's league."
Colgate University filed a waiver on Harries behalf to exempt him from the rule, but their request was denied. Now, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Colgate will appeal the NCAA’s ruling on the grounds that Harries church league competition was too casual to give him any sort of competitive advantage.
Harries is hoping the precedent set in the case of Middle Tennessee football player Steven Rhodes applies to him. The NCAA nixed a year of Rhodes’ eligibility in similar fashion months ago for his participation in Marine Corps recreational leagues. Rhodes appealed the NCAA’s decision and won.
In Rhodes case, the NCAA ruled that his competition in the Marine leagues was not skilled enough to give him any advantage once back in collegiate competition. Harries’ appeal will invoke the same reasoning.
"We don't want anything more than just for Nathan to have the opportunity to play four years of college basketball," Harries’ father said. "Hopefully when the appeals sub-committee looks at it, they'll see the facts the way they really are."