Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears not only were left out of the NCAA tournament Sunday night, but also failed to be included in the NIT field of 32 teams. Despite finishing in front of Oklahoma State in the regular season, and finishing tied with Nebraska with the advantage of the head to head win over the Cornhuskers, the NIT (which is owned and controlled by the NCAA), left Baylor out of the field in favor of those two teams. Now Baylor fans and administrators are left with nothing but questions about what happened with star player Perry Jones and can only wonder what impact his absence had on the Bears postseason hopes.
On Thursday, in an unprecedented move, the NCAA released a statement criticizing Baylor University, despite the fact that a possible appeal was still forthcoming on the Perry Jones case. The NCAA alluded to the fact that Jones had received a benefit in the amount of $4,100, and thus was no longer an amateur athlete.
BearsIllustrated.com sources indicate the $4,100 "benefit" is broken into two parts. The majority of the "benefit", $3,600 of the $4,100, was in the form of three $1,200 loans made from Lawrence Johns to Jones's parents. The loans were all short-term and all repaid well before Jones ever enrolled in school or was looked at by the NCAA. In fact, the loans were made and repaid without Perry Jones's knowledge.
BearsIllustrated.com sources have also confirmed the other $500 "benefit" received by Perry was actually a graduation gift allowing Perry to see his hometown team, the Dallas Cowboys, play in a preseason game in San Diego. Anyone that has flown and attended an NFL game in the last few years knows that $500 worth of a trip is not exactly high-flying, but is really more of a bare minimum to make a trip like that.
Nonetheless, much like the short-term loans, the Jones family has repaid the $500 to Johns, and had done so before the NCAA released its final decision last Wednesday.
Some have questioned the timing of the NCAA in this case, and in its release on Thursday the NCAA seemed to suggest Baylor might have had since January to deal with the Jones situation and finally decided to do so last week. On the contrary, sources indicate the NCAA has had all relevant information in this case for months, having initiated their investigation last fall, and informed Baylor only last Monday that Jones amateur status was being revoked.
Procedure states that Baylor then had to declare Jones ineligible and ask for reinstatement. Despite full cooperation from the school and player, dating back to last fall, the NCAA informed Jones hours before the tipoff of the Bears Big 12 Tournament game that he would not be reinstated.
Since the ruling came out against Jones, coaches on the high school level have remarked that the NCAA tournament this year should be played almost exclusively by walk-ons. Under this standard, it would be difficult to find many players that have not received a "benefit."
Perhaps most troubling in the Jones case is that the Jones family was forthright and honest with the NCAA, repaid the vast majority of the "benefit" before the NCAA even questioned Jones, and then repaid the remaining $500 with no questions asked. In matters where you would think the NCAA would want to encourage the type of response given by the Jones family, they have given Jones a stricter punishment - outright banishment - than any other player in the recent past.
This is why many are questioning the motivation of the NCAA. What is it about Jones and his family that the NCAA finds so offensive as compared to other student-athletes in similar situations?
Was the NCAA so desperate to pin something on Scott Drew's program that they stretched the rules, ignored precedent, and even timed it perfectly to put the final dagger into the Bears season? These are questions being asked by people all over the nation, not just those related to Baylor. Once again, the NCAA seems to have handed down a decision and taken a deliberate course of action that does not seem just.
One thing is clear: the NCAA's motivation is not simply to do the right thing. It is not justice. The question is will justice be coming to the NCAA instead?
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