- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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Today, the new Superman movie “Man of Steel” will make its debut in theaters around the world. I haven’t seen it yet (no spoilers, please), but we all know the story.
Homeboy in spandex and a red cape saves the day, and everyone goes home happy.
The NCAA is a bit like Superman for college sports. When there is a problem, a pressing issue, the Indianapolis-based organization flies to the scene of the disturbance and solves any ills that threaten the landscape of collegiate athletics.
In its latest noble effort, the NCAA has decided to deny the appeal of Old Dominion’s Donte Hill, who requested an extra year of eligibility to compete during the 2013-14 season. The heroic NCAA, however, rejected his request.
His crime? He played eight minutes of a closed scrimmage in 2010 before announcing his decision to transfer from Clemson a few days later. Hill, a 6-4 guard who averaged 8.2 PPG and 4.0 RPG for an Old Dominion squad that finished 5-25 overall last season, requested a waiver to play a fourth year (he sat out during the 2010-11 season).
But the NCAA’s brilliant minds chose to uphold their bylaws, according to the Virginian Pilot’s Ed Miller and Harry Minium:
Where does an eight-minute stint in a closed basketball scrimmage count as an entire season of competition?
Unfortunately for Old Dominion's Donte Hill, in the NCAA rule book.
Sticking to the letter of that bylaw, the NCAA on Thursday denied an appeal by ODU to restore a final season of eligibility for Hill, a co-captain who led the Monarchs in minutes played last season.
The ruling means that the career of the 6-foot-4 Norfolk Collegiate graduate is over.
"It's just a shame," coach Jeff Jones said. "I understand the rule is the rule. Unfortunately, Donte is the one who pays the price."
The issue stemmed from a closed scrimmage Hill played in for Clemson in 2010, days before announcing that he was transferring. An NCAA bylaw states that "any competition, regardless of time, during a season in an intercollegiate sport shall be counted as a season of competition in that sport."
An exception is made for players in their first year in school. Hill, however, was in his second year at Clemson.
ODU coaches were aware Hill had played in the scrimmage when he transferred but apparently were counting on receiving a waiver. After sitting out a season as a transfer, Hill was classified by ODU as a sophomore in 2011-12 and a junior last season. No mention was made of a potential eligibility problem.
Jones said he became aware of the issue after he took over for Blaine Taylor as coach in April.
"It's just unfortunate," he said. "I feel really bad for Donte. As I told him this morning, I was looking forward to coaching him."
It's unclear whether the player was fully aware that he risked losing a full season when he decided to transfer from Clemson. Attempts to reach Hill on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Hill played one season there under former Tigers coach Oliver Purnell and sought to transfer after new coach Brad Brownell took over. Clemson informed ODU that Hill had participated in the scrimmage, against the University of Georgia, in October 2010.
Hill is on track to graduate in August and would have competed as a graduate student this coming season. An excellent student who is active in the community, he is the sort of player the NCAA makes commercials about, former ODU associate coach Jim Corrigan said.
"He represents everything that the NCAA espouses for a student athlete to be," Corrigan said. "He has handled himself with dignity and class on and off the court and in every facet of his life. It is extremely unfortunate that he's being penalized in such a manner when he has done everything the right way."
Just like that. Career. Over.
No explanation necessary.
This is the NCAA.
As Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg notes, the NCAA has been lenient in other cases.
That the NCAA chose a strict interpretation of the rule is a bit surprising both because of the severity of the penalty and because of the precedent it has previously set. In 2011, the NCAA chose not to take a full year of eligibility from Notre Dame's Tim Abromaitis for playing in two exhibition games during a redshirt year, opting instead to more justly punish him with a four-game suspension to start his senior season.
The difference in Abromaitis' situation is Notre Dame coach Mike Brey intended to redshirt the forward but made a mistake and interpreted the rule wrong. There is no indication Clemson coaches intended to redshirt Hill had he chosen to remain with the Tigers for the season.
The NCAA is hot and cold when it comes to rulings. Former Missouri guard Michael Dixon hopes to play next season for Memphis after missing a year of competition because of a sexual assault investigation. Dez Wells, who dealt with a similar situation at Xavier, was allowed to compete immediately for Maryland last season after he left his former program.
Dixon and Wells were not charged in their respective cases.
But their situations were far more serious than Hill’s scenario.
He played in a closed scrimmage for eight minutes. And now, he can’t play next season, which should be his senior campaign.
It just doesn’t make sense.
But that’s the norm with the NCAA.