Court records reveal FSU turned in OU in Balogun case
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The two-game schedule between Florida State and Oklahoma that will be starting next season in Norman apparently will get pretty spicy.
That realization comes after court records reveal that the Florida State compliance office turned in Oklahoma to the Big 12 for questioning about the case of senior linebacker Mike Balogun. Several Oklahoma reports indicate the re-opening of Balogun's eligibility investigation was sparked after a Florida State compliance officer watched the broadcast of the BCS National Championship Game in January.
Balogun stopped Florida running back Chris Rainey for a 3-yard loss on a play early in the first half. As Fox commentators told the story about Balogun playing semi-professional football before his college career, it reminded Florida State officials of a similar case for them.
Oklahoma papers reported that the Florida State compliance office was familiar with the rule since their own player, wide receiver Corey Surrency, had his college career cut short earlier last year when it was found that he had played a season of semi-pro football past the age of 21.
Balogun filed a civil lawsuit in Oklahoma District Court on Tuesday and received a temporary restraining order. The case will be heard on Monday.
Balogun's lawsuit is in reaction to the NCAA's investigation of Balogun's eligibility, which was certified before last season. But the NCAA now questions whether Balogun played football past his 21st birthday.
According to NCAA rules, for every season an athlete plays semi-pro football past his 21st birthday, he loses a season of eligibility. And since Balogun, 25, is a senior, it would end his college career if he is found to have violated those rules.
Interestingly, it appears that Florida State officers went to great lengths to check out Balogun's case. They initially told the Big 12 Conference, but were told the conference was satisfied with Oklahoma's original findings.
But Florida State's compliance office apparently delved much deeper after that, the Oklahoman reports.
Florida State officials went to Oklahoma and pointed out they had found a box score on the Internet reflecting Balogun had played semi-pro ball after his 21st birthday. Balogun turned 21 on Sept. 28, 2004.
Oklahoma officials responded they were aware of the box score, but believed it to be inaccurate. But since then, the Oklahoma compliance office has interviewed Dennis Felton, an ex-assistant coach for the North American Football League's Maryland Marauders, Balogun's former semi-pro team.
The Oklahoman reports that Felton told OU compliance he thought Balogun played for the Marauders from 2004-06, suggesting Balogun participated in semi-pro football well after his 21st birthday. University officials passed along this information to the NCAA, which renewed its investigation about Balogun's semi-pro history.
In the affidavit, Gary Rice states that Balogun participated with the Marauders during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The Marauders' season went from June-September. In his own sworn affidavit, Balogun affirms he didn't play for the Marauders past 2004, which means he would've completed his semi-pro career prior to turning 21.
But Internet information obtained by the Oklahoman disputes those affidavits.
On the NAFL's Web site, Balogun is listed in a recap and box score of the 2005 NAFL title game, played in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 12, 2005. According to the Web site, Balogun recorded seven tackles and recovered a fumble in a 13-10 loss to the West Sound (Wash.) Saints. He would have been 22 in November 2005.
The Web site semiprofootball.org also lists Balogun as a 2005 all-star for the NAFL's Eastern Conference as a member of the Marauders.
The Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma has asked the NCAA for a waiver specific to Balogun's case, but it appears unlikely it will be granted. If the district court will then grant Balogun a permanent injunction to let him play in the upcoming season, it would be up to Oklahoma to let Balogun play.
But if Balogun plays and the NCAA appeals and gets a reversal of the court decision, the Sooners could be in more NCAA hot water for using an ineligible player, the World reports. Oklahoma already is on NCAA probation stemming from the penalties levied in cases involving Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn in 2005-06.
OU has asked the NCAA for a waiver specific to Balogun's case, but it appears unlikely the waiver will be granted. And if the court grants Balogun a permanent injunction that allows him to play in games in 2009, it's then up to OU to let Balogun play.
Whether Balogun ever plays college football appears problematic after all of the earlier information has surfaced.
But something tells me when the Seminoles visit Owen Field early next season, it will be a pretty memorable and emotional game for Sooner fans -- particularly for those with long memories.