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NCAA Reinstatement Wrinkle Helps SDSU’s Shepard

Winston Shepard, a freshman men’s basketball player at San Diego State University will be suspended three games for receiving impermissible benefits. That by itself is not too notable. As Mark Zeigler notes, Shepard is just the latest basketball player to be suspended this year. And Shepard’s violation, having a car loan cosigned by someone he met while playing at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas is also not out of the ordinary. What is unusual is when Shepard will serve his suspension:

Shepard’s suspension was supposed to start Sunday with the “Battle on the Midway” against No. 8 Syracuse, but sources said SDSU officials successfully argued that, because it was such a unique event and the violation was minor in nature, Shepard should be allowed to start any suspension this week. The NCAA agreed, and Shepard played 21 minutes for the No. 25 Aztecs in 62-49 loss on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

That is the same argument that was used to allow Terrell Pryor and Co. to play for Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, with their suspensions served the following season. Everyone knows how that ended up. It is based on this section of the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Guidelines:

The student-athlete reinstatement lead administrator in consultation with the division-specific chair, and other committee members at the chair’s discretion, has the ability to suspend a reinstatement condition in very limited circumstances if the next contest is the NCAA championship, a bowl game, the NIT or a national collegiate
championship. The general practice is that student-athletes are withheld from the next contests even if the next contests are part of the NCAA championship, a bowl game, the NIT or a national collegiate championship and that policy remains in place. Suspension of a withholding condition is to be used in very limited circumstances where the culpability of the involved student-athlete is minimal and withholding from an NCAA championship, a bowl game, the NIT or a national collegiate championship does not seem appropriate. Further, the suspension can only be used if the student-athlete has
eligibility remaining the following academic year.

In Shepard’s case, he argued he did not know that he had committed a violation, which is easier to believe from an incoming freshmen than returning student-athletes. He also returned the car after four days. That would help establish his “minimal culpability.”

While the guidelines mention only postseason competition, the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement is empowered to depart from those guidelines. If any bowl game is considered a special enough opportunity to warrant delaying a suspension, then a game on the deck of aircraft carrier should qualify as well.

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