The NCAA took a major step in the right direction on Tuesday when it cleared the way for student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness, but the organization still has a lot of work to do if it truly wants to be for the athlete.
Case and point; the Rasheem Dunn debacle.
Lightly recruited coming out of high school, Dunn took his talents to St. Francis-Brooklyn and became a star for the Terriers, averaging 15 points per game as a sophomore. Itching for a step up in competition, Dunn transferred to Cleveland State last offseason and sat out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules. This season was supposed to be Dunn’s first at Cleveland State, but disaster struck before he could ever take the floor for the Vikings.
After Rashad Williams and Tyree Appleby, Cleveland State’s two best players, transferred out of the program, coach Dennis Felton was fired in July. In the following days, four of Dunn’s teammates announced their intentions to transfer. In less than a week, Dunn was left without the coach that recruited him to the school and essentially, a team. So, he followed suit, entered the NCAA transfer portal and eventually committed to St. John’s.
Other than uprooting and transferring for the second time in as many years, Dunn finally seemed to be in the clear. He would almost certainly be granted a waiver to be immediately eligible considering he sat out the 2018-19 season and the circumstances surrounding his decision to transfer, right?
Cleveland State athletic director Scott Garnett took issue with Dunn’s departure. He felt that Dunn could have stayed at the school and starred under new coach Dennis Gates, but decided to bolt for greener pastures anyway. Garnett officially challenged Dunn’s departure and won, as the NCAA denied Dunn’s waiver application for immediate eligibility on Sunday.
Now, Dunn is forced to sit out for the second consecutive season. He had clear grounds to warrant immediate eligibility, but instead, the NCAA sided with Garnett and Cleveland State.
“I just came from sitting out a whole year. I feel like I do deserve [immediate eligibility],” Dunn said of the decision. “I’m a kid who did everything he was supposed to do through his college years, high school years, got good grades.”
The NCAA claims it works in favor of the student-athlete, but it has become abundantly clear that the process by which they are granted is extremely flawed and plays into the hands of the organization. If you’re a big-name player who has the potential to drive up TV ratings and make the NCAA some money, odds are you’ll be granted a waiver. If you’re a relative unknown like Dunn, good luck getting your waiver passed.
Take Tate Martell, for example. The former Netflix series QB1 star essentially ran for the hills when Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State. Instead of sticking around to compete for the starting quarterback job, Martell left and transferred to Miami. He didn’t have any reason to be granted immediate eligibility, but he was.
Bru McCoy is another shining example of how flawed the waiver system is. McCoy, a five-star recruit and one of the best wide receivers in the Class of 2019, signed with USC after Kliff Kingsbury was named offensive coordinator. A couple of months after Kingsbury bolted for the NFL, McCoy transferred to Texas and was granted immediate eligibility because the position coach that recruited him left the school.
Wasn’t Dunn just denied a waiver even though the coach who recruited him to Cleveland State left the program?
It is becoming increasingly clear that the NCAA manipulates the waiver process however it sees fit. Luke Ford’s waiver for immediate eligibility when he transferred from Georgia to Illinois to be closer to his ailing grandmother? Denied. Brock Hoffman’s medical hardship waiver to be closer to his mother, who had a non-cancerous brain tumor removed and is still having health issues to this day, after transferring from Coastal Carolina to Virginia Tech? Denied.
But hey, if you’re a former Netflix star or five-star recruit, that’s enough of a reason for the NCAA to let you get on the field as soon as possible.
Dunn is the latest to fall victim to the NCAA’s practices. Unfortunately, he won’t be the last. Mark Emmert and other NCAA higher-ups can say what they want, but the National Communists Against Athletes acronym that All-American linebacker Brian Bosworth made famous in the 1980’s rings truer with each wrong decision the organization makes.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.