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Friday, September 24, 2010
The eligibility story you haven't heard

By Eamonn Brennan

Enes Kanter's situation is by far the most high-profile test of the NCAA's rules on foreign club eligibility. There have been players before Kanter -- Iowa State's Lucca Staiger, West Virginia's Deniz Kilicli -- but none have garnered as much attention, and neither are tests of the NCAA's recently relaxed rules on under-18 players hailing from developmental foreign clubs. Kanter, for reasons of talent, profile, and precedent, is already the biggest case we've seen in years.

Still, Kanter is not the only one up against the NCAA's eligibility wall this season. Meet Hofstra guard Brad Kelleher. And if you thought Kanter's eligibility process was taking forever, Kelleher's tale -- told here by CAA Hoops -- might blow you away.

The pertinent details:
It’s unfortunate Hofstra guard Brad Kelleher lost roughly two-thirds of his division one career in a battle over his eligibility. In sum: five years ago Kelleher played four games in Australia’s professional league, alongside professionals but wasn’t paid. This is common in Australia and across Europe and has become a focus of various NCAA eligibility investigations.

The NCAA investigation into Kelleher concluded this summer, and the end result was Kelleher being deemed ineligible for all of his junior season, and the first eight games of this season. However the case, when examined closely, uncovers an investigative process and appeals system that is at best plodding, and at worst random, illogical, and prone to the arbitrary interpretive whims of NCAA investigators.

All of which sounds like loaded language until you read Kelleher's entire story. According to the NCAA, Kelleher signed a "contract" to play Australian basketball, even though the contract in question looks an awful lot like a simple registration form. It comprises one page. Kelleher's former GM asserts it was not a professional agreement, and the NCAA, during the course of the proceedings, agreed that no money changed hands.

CAA Hoops goes on to cite a convoluted appeals process, questionable punishment decisions, and an ultimately defeated Hofstra team accepting what altogether seems like a much-too-harsh penalty for a player who, by all accounts, didn't get a dime in Australia.

These eligibility decisions are convoluted and difficult, and it's hard to fault the NCAA too much for some occasional oversights or inconsistencies. But if Hofstra's story is true, Kelleher got screwed. It's as simple as that.