When the NCAA released its March revision to the Division I Manual (ref: sections 36.4 and 22.70) most of the buzz was about the surprising decision that student-athletes who are ghosts can only compete on men's teams, despite their gender preference when they were among the living. But the new ruling about scholarship eligibility - a variant of the little league everyone-plays rule - probably should have gotten more attention.
The ruling states that students on athletic scholarships at D-I universities must play at least one "recorded instance" (a minute on the court, a down, an at-bat, etc.) in a "competitive, interscholastic, NCAA-level competition" once per year, or else retroactively forfeit that year's scholarship to the school. As such, all players (besides walk-ons) on rosters up and down Division I now enforceably owe their university anywhere from $63,199.32 (a Duke football player pursuing a graduate degree) to $87.99 (the entire Texas Tech basketball team, whose scholarships were primarily covered by prizes won in Showcase Showdowns). The NCAA has stated only that this decision makes "total sense" and that it is "one hundred percent in line with our previous actions" (which the consensus agrees is true), repeating these two claims insistently until reporters got claustrophobic and excused themselves.
The ramifications of the so-called "play or pay" rule hit close by. I'm sure when most of the Pitt community heard about it, their mind went to now-former Pitt basketball center Tyrone Haughton. Haughton, who while eligible to get on the court at any time this season, did not do so, is estimated to be on the hook to the university for $43,200. This despite the total benefits he received seemingly totaling far less than that. When reached for comment to explain the discrepancy, Haughton said that he was "Joe Uchebo" and that "we don't look similar, I don't understand how this could've happened."
Redshirt Freshman QB Adam Bertke, when asked about the new rule, was nonplussed. "I redshirted. I couldn't play. They didn't let me on the field. So it doesn't apply to me, right?" When informed that it did, Bertke stood silently for a while, kicked the ground, stood silently for another, longer while, and then asked what the resale value of sandwiches from the Steelers' lunchroom is. "They usually give me a second one, if I ask."
The NCAA has not made it clear how far back the "retroactive" return of tuition money will go, although former TCU redshirt Jamie Dixon was seen this morning checking the back of his car for stray cash to cover the damages.
The Good Doctor Tony Juhl could not be reached for comment about what Pitt's athletic department would do with the returned money, as he is nothing more than a myth college presidents tell athletic directors when they don't behave. Associate AD E.J. Borghetti commented on the matter on in a since-deleted tweet:
More on this story as we can find the players who have taken to hiding to avoid Registrar agents armed with anti-aircraft artillery.
As a brief personal aside, this is my first time doing real news for this site and I'm pretty happy with how it came out. Please comment with feedback and look forward to more from me in the near future, although I will be posting the updates from my regular, non-PBS account, which you can follow here. Also, check your calendar.
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