The NCAA announced on Tuesday that highly-touted Ole Miss defensive tackle recruit Jerrell Powe will not be academically eligible this season.
Powe's case is highly publicized. He has been granted admission to Ole Miss and had been given a window to practice with the team until the NCAA came to its final ruling.
The NCAA ruled that Powe will be allowed to receive athletically related financial aid to attend classes. However, he will be ineligible for practice and competition until meeting NCAA and institutional academic requirements in college.
"The idea for determining if student-athletes are academically eligible to participate in college sports is to ensure that the rigors of practice and competition do not interfere with the primary reason student-athletes enroll in college -- to get an education," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of membership services. "Mr. Powe has not achieved sufficient academic success under NCAA rules to permit athletics participation."
Powe, who has learning disabilities, has been working toward
eligibility for two years. He signed with the Rebels in 2005, but
the NCAA ruled he did not have the required core courses.
He signed again in 2006 after attending a prep school and taking
correspondence courses, but the NCAA questioned whether he had
received too much help while he attempted to qualify.
Powe's lawyer, Don Jackson, has argued that teachers never offered more help than is required by federal law and the NCAA is violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"Over the next 24 hours we'll plot out where we are," Jackson told ESPN The Magazine's Bruce Feldman on Tuesday. "We've had discussions with Ole Miss and they're preparing to file an appeal either late today or tomorrow, but at the same time we're having separate discussions internally about whether to file a lawsuit. That would depend on the timeliness of how quickly the NCAA responds to the appeal.
"We'll be prepared to file a lawsuit by tomorrow."
Powe was elevated to the first team by coach Ed Orgeron after
just a few workouts. But he was allowed to practice only on a
temporary basis while he sought NCAA eligibility.
After initially denying Powe eligibility in 2005 because he had not completed the 14 core high school courses required to compete in college sports, the NCAA accused Powe of receiving too much help in his quest to qualify last year. The NCAA even put out a news release in September that cast a shadow over Powe's academic work after graduation.
"The NCAA stressed it is concerned about Mr. Powe's long-term well-being and that he has not yet demonstrated he can successfully manage the demands of full-time college academics and intercollegiate athletics," the statement said. "Among its concerns, the group noted there was insufficient information provided to the NCAA to determine that Mr. Powe completed the work on his own without significant assistance."
The decision regarding Powe's practice and competition status may be appealed to the NCAA Initial Eligibility Waiver Learning Disability Subcommittee. The decision regarding Powe's high school coursework may be appealed to the NCAA Student Records Review Committee.
"Knowing Jerrell Powe, I know he is going to continue to
compete," Orgeron said after Tuesday's practice. "There still is
a chance for him. I know there are appeals. The bottom line is I
think Jerrell will eventually, whether it is this year or next
year, will play for Ole Miss and be a great player."
Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.