Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A football prospect grows up with an extremely disadvantaged background. Despite that, he excels on the field and in the classroom and has an opportunity to play go to college and play football. But he needs some more help, in the form of money, to make that dream come true. Most would guess that the sad ending to the story is the NCAA puts the kibosh on the plan.
But things turned out different for Frederick Epting, who despite growing up homeless earned an academic scholarship and spot on the football team at Drake University. But Epting’s academic scholarship is $9,000 short per year of Drake’s cost of attendance and the football team plays in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League so no athletic scholarships is available to close the gap. Epting and one of his teachers turned to a crowdfunding site with a campaign that has smashed expectations, raising $31,000 as of July 1.
But the sad twist never happened in this case because the NCAA has already said Epting can keep the money:
Officials at Drake had to pore over the people who have donated to ensure that no one who gave was affiliated with Drake in any way since that could potentially compromise his eligibility.
The NCAA granted Epting a waiver to keep the cash as long as no one affiliated with Drake donates.
The difference between Epting and Boise State signee Antoine Turner might simply be one of timing. Turner’s story was reported before Boise State was granted the waiver to assist him, so the initial headlines were “NCAA Won’t Let School Help Homeless Recruit”. Had Epting’s gained traction before Drake got its waiver, similar headlines like “NCAA Prevents Homeless, 4.2 GPA Student from Accepting Donations” would have been the result.
To top off the good news, this waiver is also not license for coaches, administrators, or boosters to launch fundraising campaigns to get around scholarship limits. It is a waiver that required what sounds like a significant amount of legwork on Drake’s part. The NCAA would have to review any future crowdfunding campaigns in the same manner.