This is one of those times to remember the NCAA is not the IRS. It’s not a government entity or regulatory agency. It’s just an association of members. It’s the schools who set NCAA policy. The NCAA only enforces it.
So in the case of Terry Henderson, cruelly denied a sixth year at N.C. State in apparent violation of both recent precedent and human decency, the guideline to remember is that these rules are in place for a reason. Schools want to discourage transfers by making players sit out a year (and continue to seek acceptable ways to neuter the grad-transfer rule), so the NCAA enforces the letter of the law.
If Henderson had started his career at N.C. State and missed 7 minutes short of two seasons to injury instead of sitting out to transfer home from West Virginia, he’d be playing again next year. If he had come to N.C. State as a grad transfer and his season had ended after only 7 minutes, he’d have gotten a sixth year. But because he had the temerity to change schools in mid-career, the NCAA showed no compassion.
Coaches can leave in the middle of their contract, stranding players and recruits alike. Administrators swap jobs to double their paychecks all the time. But once a player signs a letter of intent (which may not be an enforceable contract for most recruits in North Carolina anyway, a story for another day) he becomes an indentured servant, essentially.
Transfer? How dare you.
Look at Pittsburgh, where the university insists grad transfer Cam Johnson sit out a year if he transfers to North Carolina or another ACC school. Players move between ACC schools as grad transfers all the time without sitting out, but Pittsburgh wants to show Johnson who’s boss. The NCAA’s inflexibility on eligibility waivers for injured transfers like Henderson is that same “transfer epidemic” mentality, institutionalized.
So the next time you hear someone from the NCAA wax noble about the welfare of “student athletes” – and that includes not only NCAA executives but every university president, athletic director, coach and bowl rep who benefits from the athletic-industrial complex – remember they’re the same people who put the rules in place that penalized Henderson merely for changing schools.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock