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Once again, NCAA Eligibility Center overlooks common sense

27 MAR 2015:  The NCAA Logo and Welcome to the Sweet Sixteen on the court The Carrier Dome prior to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen game between the Louisville Cardinals and the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Often when the NCAA Eligibility Center makes news during the run-up to college basketball season, it’s because it declared a four- or five-star super freshman ineligible. Or the office drags its feet in declaring someone of that caliber as eligible, or the legacy program is twisting in the wind.

Well, good news, NCAA E.C. fans (if such people exist). None of that happened this time.

It’s much more absurd than that.

The NCAA Eligibility Center declared Isaiah Brock of Oakland University ineligible because of poor performance in high school.

“So what?” you’re probably saying.  “Who’s Isaiah Brock and why does this matter?”

Well, Isaiah Brock is a 22-year-old veteran of the United States Army. He was deployed to Afghanistan and Kuwait as a mortuary affairs specialist. Here is his job description  as he explained it to the Detroit Free Press:

“When a solider dies on the battlefield, we’ll go retrieve them, or they’ll be  brought to us,” he said. “We’ll process their remains, search through their belongings, search through their body, annotate all their wounds and everything that happened. You see all the ramp ceremonies with the flag draped over their body? That’s what we do; then we send them home.”

Isaiah Brock witnessed the horrors of war firsthand.

He served his country during tough times with honor. His athletic talent was discovered during a week-long visit with the troops by some college coaches. He formed a good connection with Greg Kampe of Oakland University (located in the Detroit area) and was offered a scholarship.

It is true that Brock was not a superior high school student. By his own admission in that Free Press interview, he didn’t care about school when he was in high school. However, while enlisted, he took two courses online through the University of Maryland and got an A and a B. He then enrolled at Oakland and received two more Bs this summer.

Assuming that those courses were three credits each, he has a 3.25 GPA. It’s hard to understand how that doesn’t demonstrate being college-ready — especially when considering the circumstances, i.e., taking two of those courses by computer while serving half a world away, caring for the bodies of fallen comrades.

At a certain point, performance in high school classes is rendered moot by a mature response to significant — and in this case, overwhelming — life challenges. Brock’s experience and new worldview affected his life in ways he could not have envisioned while he was a junior or senior in high school.

Furthermore, it appears that he doesn’t need a “year of readiness” to prepare him academically for the trials that lie ahead at Oakland University as he seeks to become a counselor. A 3.25 GPA after a semester’s worth of classes is proof that he is academically ready. This isn’t based on speculation, which is what the admissions formula is predicated on; this is based on actual, tangible results.

Brock and Oakland can and will appeal. The appeal (if there is any sense on the hearing panel) should overturn the decision, and Brock should be allowed to start his career.

But the fact that the decision was made in the first place is absolute lunacy.

The fact that there is such a strict, allegedly objective standard in place is laughable at best.

The fact that there is no mechanism to prevent this from getting to a point where a “no” verdict is rendered is problematic.

The fact that apparently the member schools of the NCAA are okay with this is horrible.

And the fact that many sit by, shrug and say, “Hey, the system is the system and this demonstrates that the system is working,” is cynicism at its finest…

… and horrible.

Shouldn’t we expect — no, demand — better?

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