Saturday, August 14, 2010

Uona Kaveinga's Appeal Deserves To Be Judged By Spirit Of Law

The Uona Kaveinga appeal to the NCAA deserves close scrutiny.

As they say in legalese, there are "mitigating" circumstances for the BYU player currently busting his butt in practice.

Initially, the NCAA ruled Kaveinga is not eligible to play for the Cougars this season after transferring from Southern California and enrolling at BYU in January.

The NCAA's decision not to waive bylaw 14.3 through 14.5.6 is currently on appeal by BYU in behalf of the native of Hawthorne, Calif.

NCAA rules say an athlete who transfers must sit out one year of competition. The rule was instigated to discourage players from transferring en masse from one school to another, picking a flavor of the month, after financial commitments have been made.

A waiver to this rule is given when a school receives major sanctions or penalties involving postseason play for violating NCAA rules. Players can then transfer to a school of their choice and immediately play.

This is where Kaveinga hopes there is some wiggle room. There is no precedent for his case.

While USC awaited NCAA sanctions, Kaveinga left a program with disturbing features that left him uncomfortable in December and enrolled at BYU on Jan. 4. It was a few weeks before that when USC's compliance office began an investigation into RB Joe McKnight driving around a Land Rover owned by a Santa Monica businessman and held McKnight out of the Emerald Bowl.

The NCAA slapped the Trojans with major sanctions June 10. Kaveinga, however, transferred to BYU before the actual hammer came down on USC, freeing football players to transfer without penalty.

If the spirit of the waiver rule on appeal is upheld, a legislative committee may yet rule he can play. If the letter of the rule is kept, as in the original decision, he cannot and will redshirt this fall.

Odds are, he'll be forced to sit out 2010.

His coach, Paul Tidwell, is understandably biased and wants the player on the field.

"I think he should play," Tidwell said. "The NCAA may never hear it, or if they do, they may not believe it, but Uona knew what the situation was there and he wanted a better environment. He knew with the coaching change and an investigation going on for some time that it should be a consideration.

"I hope they grant it. Unfortunately BYU has not been very fortunate with appeals and waivers for our young men. We've been turned down a lot more than we've been granted."

If Kaveinga has to redshirt, he has a redshirt year, said Tidwell. "He'll come back and be an outstanding player for us. Thing is, we do need him this year and he could help us now. Personally, I hope he gets the waiver. If they look at the whole picture and why he transferred, I hope they waive the rule so our appeal can go through."

Kaveinga's appeal should be based on the fact the NCAA's hammer was raised and in motion toward the anvil of USC's football program when Kaveinga transferred. It is common knowledge the NCAA was poised to deliver a serious decision against the USC athletic department last January. Whether he attended classes in Los Angeles or in Provo shouldn't matter. It is not a competitive advantage had he spent his winter semester in Provo as opposed to gang-ridden Los Angeles; nor does it open a floodgate of similar cases.

If the NCAA is about the student athlete, it should rule in his favor on appeal, just as we saw with much-injured Ute RB Matt Asiata, not because the cases are similar — they are not at all — but because it would aid an innocent athlete who wanted relief from an infected pool.

Five USC players have transferred since the NCAA penalized the Trojans in June.

It is true head coach Pete Carroll left his USC job Jan. 10, 2010, for the NFL in a cloud of criticism for the lack of control he established with agents and other celebrity influences among his athletes. That leaky access challenge has led Florida's Urban Meyer and Alabama's Nick Saban to take a much stricter approach to practice access this month.

It is well known that USC and the NCAA took major actions against the men's basketball and tennis programs — a signal that USC's athletic department had serious issues that were well known at the close of 2009. On Feb. 18, 2010, the NCAA began three days of hearings on USC allegations.

Is it justice if the NCAA grants him a waiver?


There is a precedent in recent appeals with BYU, however. Last Saturday, Bronco Mendenhall had to bite his tongue when asked about the last time he saw one in BYU's favor.

Chances are this one will be added to that list.

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