Yesterday's issue of the Daily Bruin included an unsigned editorial criticizing the NCAA's handling of its investigation into the eligibility of Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad. The DB editors noted the length of the investigation along with the lack of any obvious signs of wrongdoing by the pair or their families in concluding that the NCAA should allow them to be allowed to play without penalty until the investigation concludes, with any period of suspension levied after that point.
The NCAA should let these players start the season without future penalty and immediately remove them if an investigation culminates in a critical finding.
After all, Muhammad and Anderson are teenagers who have committed no crime and are simply focused on their future, just like other students who recently arrived in Westwood.
While I agree with their assessment that the NCAA investigation has dragged on way too long - seriously, murder cases get investigated and solved faster than this - I am not on board with the conclusion that the two should therefore be allowed to play immediately as if there is no issue pending.
The DB's editorial states that because the two have not been accused of a crime, that the NCAA should let them play. While that fact is accurate, we are not dealing with the justice system and the basic personal freedoms of these guys, but whether they broke some of the foundational rules of an organization which - as student-athletes at UCLA - they wish to join.
Going by the bits of information that have come out of the investigations, there may be some minor violations on the part of one or both of the players and/or their families. Such levels of infractions, if found to have occurred, will not directly affect UCLA and should be easily curable by the offending parties. But until the players are cleared, or are found to be involved in an infraction and remedy the wrongdoing, they are not safe to play. We were warned of this by the NCAA while we recruited Shabazz at least, that might not be eligible to play from day 1, or at all.
If they were involved in receiving an improper benefit prior to coming to UCLA, and under the DB's preferred solution had been permitted to play, the Bruins would have been guilty of gaining an unfair competitive advantage in allowing 1 or 2 ineligible players compete. In the worst case scenario where either player would be found either permanently ineligible or subject to a season-long penalty, the Bruin season would be screwed.
In a perfect world (one which the DB, and others might prefer, but not reflective of the current NCAA framework), Shabazz and Kyle might be allowed to play, forgiving the period of ineligibility to start the season given that any required suspension is served once the investigation is done. In practice, this is logistically tricky - what if the length of the suspension is greater than the number of guaranteed games left in the season, or having to sit players in the middle of conference play rather than the OOC-slate.
Regardless of what we might prefer, there is an established history of players facing eligibility questions. We have been critical of schools using questionable players in the past, so it is only fair that when one of our teams has taken on players with some known issues, we accept the consequences with understanding and class. If only the NCAA will get their behinds ingest and wrap this investigation so that Kyle, Shabazz and the greater Bruins Nation can move on.