Chris Walker’s college career was already delayed by additional academic work he needed to be a qualifier. It was then delayed further by an NCAA investigation into pre-enrollment amateurism issues which was resolved today:
Men’s basketball student-athlete Chris Walker will be eligible to play for the University of Florida on Feb. 4 after sitting a total of 12 games, or 40 percent of the 2013–14 basketball season. Walker received preferential treatment from five people, including two agents. In addition, Walker will be required to donate the $270 received from the agents to a charity of his choice and serve 80 hours of community service for the remaining benefits received.
Walker himself received a free cell phone and service, airfair, lodging, meals and apparel while individuals associated with him received nine airfare and lodging for nine trips, most of which were associated with Walker’s AAU competition.
Beyond the delay, Walker’s case is notable because of the community service penalty which was imposed. The NCAA release does not indicate if that specific penalty was suggested by the NCAA staff or Florida. I have never seen this penalty before, but it is in the reinstatement guidelines:
Situations that may warrant community service include violations where the student-athlete received no financial benefit, gained no competitive advantage and the student-athlete had minimal culpability. The committees noted that in those very rare cases where community service is imposed, the institution would be held responsible for the supervision, documentation and notification of the student-athlete reinstatement staff of progress and fulfillment of the community service.
But perhaps it should not be so rare. It would be unfair to make student-athletes repay benefits received by someone else. And in some cases, repayment comes from an athlete’s Pell Grant or need-based scholarship or the athlete has to start a repayment plan in order to get reinstated. Community service could be a way to get the same result as repayment (donation to a charity) without requiring athletes to come up with money they might not have.
But for it to be an alternative to repayment, it has to be much clearer. The NCAA should have a set conversion between dollars and community service hours, as well as published standards for how and when the community service obligation has to be fulfilled.