Nerlens Noel and the NCAA Investigator Goons

We’ve learned within the last few days that the NCAA has sent some of their young, naive “investigators” out “into the field” to follow up on some Pete Thamel New York Times reports that top basketball recruit Nerlens Noel received assistance of some kind which the NCAA believes violates their club rules. The Providence Journal adds, in their August 27 article, that the NCAA is also skunking around to dig up some dirt on prep star Ricky Ledo, and two members of the Providence-area Sweeney family who know and have helped out Ledo.

The Sweeneys — and anyone else — should tell the NCAA, thanks but no thanks, we will not be talking to you. People somehow have it in their heads that these NCAA people have some kind of law enforcement authority, and that they ought be allowed to go creeping around asking questions about people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island who live a thousand miles from where these NCAA ersatz “investigators” live.

The NCAA has no power or authority to require anyone to cough up any information. The NCAA is just some club. Which happens to now operate a big business in cartel fashion. This is all not just none of their business. It’s illegal.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

And note: this voluntary club which is the NCAA suffers from an inability to rationally spend money, or even plan an agenda for their use of investigatory resources. For example, we’ve just recently learned that Joe Paterno quite clearly perjured himself before a grand jury. Shouldn’t that suggest that these NCAA investigators wandering around the Northeast recently, chasing after poor kids with substantial economic disadvantage, ought more appropriately have been assigned to Penn State, to review every filing, every action, undertaken by Joe Paterno during his tenure as Penn State coach, on the ready chance that Paterno similarly lied over the years, in baldfaced fashion, to the NCAA? But the NCAA doesn’t see it that way..

Here’s why the NCAA is engaged in illegal activity. Their “investigators” are not registered as private investigators in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, or Rhode Island. More to the point, the information that they seek surrounds “educational records” pertaining to these prep athletes. Those records are protected by the same federal statute – FERPA – which the NCAA and its’ member schools use as a maximum shield against the release of anything having to do with a “student-athlete” — once that student is enrolled. The NCAA and its’ schools and coaches take their FERPA “blanket” protection even further, so that, for example, any coach will, upon announcing a suspension of a player from a team, assert that it was for a “violation of team or school procedure” – with the rationale that any more thorough explanation is barred because the information “relates to” some FERPA-protected record. The schools create a Kremlin-like barrier to information flow on campus, by invoking ridiculously wide coverage of the FERPA statute.

Prep athletes like Noel and Ledo should take advantage of the same FERPA interpretation, and send a letter to the NCAA to cease and desist its’ investigation as regards any FERPA-related information.

And anyone – school administrator, coach, players, whomever — contacted by the NCAA should refuse to talk with them, particularly without a signed release from the player.

(The colleges force each player, after he is enrolled and on campus, to sign a “lasting waiver” of all FERPA protections, within a document deceptively and innocuously entitled “Student Athlete Statement”, but prep athletes like Noel and Ledo have signed no such explicit waiver. If they have, they should revoke it.)

Any prep player should make it clear to anyone around him – friends, fellow players, school principals and coaches, AAU coaches — that the NCAA has no authority or business investigating as they do, and that they do not have that players’ permission to speak with the NCAA. There’s nothing at all wrong with this message. The prep player is at the bottom of a legal barrel, fighting a “lawyered-up” bully of an NCAA whose sole function is to insure that the tsunami of money (billions of dollars) which now funnels to the NCAA and schools from TV and other sources will not reach the palms of the (frequently poor) “Player-Talent.”

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About brewonsouthu

Michigan and Big Ten fan, former lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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