Friday, December 16, 2005

The case of the missing fax

Just another scandal

If Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith had only found that missing fax a few months earlier, this whole painful mess could have been resolved long ago.

The NCAA had earlier ruled center Randolph Morris ineligible for the entire 05-06 season. According to ESPN, Morris had taken funds from an agent -- SFX -- in advance of the draft. In fact, the agent issued a press release stating that Morris, come hell or high water, was going to stay in the draft. Morris thus lost his college eligibility.

Then the bucket of ice-cold reality doused Morris and SFX: the talented big man went undrafted by the NBA.

So Morris appealed the NCAA's ineligibility ruling for the 05-06 season. Over the summer, the NCAA requested documentation that would have shown Morris had intended to return to school and had simply misunderstood the agent's representations.

Memo to readers

Let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and gloss over the fact that the rules are quite explicit: retain an agent, lose eligibility. Those five words capture their entire complexity.

So where was the documentation that Morris had intended to return to UK? It had gone AWOL. A May 9, 2005 fax from Morris to the Coach had been misplaced.

Luckily, this week, after carefully cleaning out his desk, Coach Smith found the letter with the magical phrase that all of Ruppland had hoped for:

I would like to announce my intentions to 'test the waters' in the 2005 NBA draft. My intent is not to obtain an agent so as to maintain my collegiate eligibility.

After receiving the documentation, the NCAA ruled that Morris would retain eligibility after serving a relatively brief 14-game suspension. What a coincidence! Just after a vicious pounding by arch-rival Indiana exposed the Wildcats' need for a true center... and just before the brutal SEC season.

Thank goodness Coach Smith found that fax this week!

The accompanying image is a parody illustration only and does not imply that the University of Kentucky cheated, forged or bent the rules. While UK's history is, uhm, illustrious, I know of no evidence that the current program has violated any rules whatsoever.

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