Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he sent a letter to Kevin Lennon, Vice President for Academic and Membership Affairs of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and Katie Willett, Assistant Director for Academic and Membership Affairs of the NCAA, objecting to the Association’s decision to disallow Jeremiah Masoli from playing football at the University of Mississippi, also known as Ole Miss, during the 2010-2011 academic year.
Jeremiah Masoli graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in July and was accepted for a graduate program at Ole Miss. He submitted a waiver request to the NCAA which, if approved, would allow him to transfer schools and begin playing immediately on the football team rather than waiting one year in order to meet a residency requirement. On Tuesday, August 31, 2010, the NCAA issued a partial approval of the waiver: Masoli would be allowed to transfer, however, he must wait until the 2011-2012 academic year to compete.
“I am disappointed that the NCAA is not applying its rules equitably. To my knowledge, Jeremiah is in full compliance with the NCAA’s administrative requirements to apply for and receive a complete waiver that would allow him to play during the 2010-2011 season. First, he was clearly in good standing with the University of Oregon, which awarded him his bachelor’s degree earlier this summer. Secondly, he transferred from a university that did not have a graduate program that is offered at the University of Mississippi,” Faleomavaega said.
“In its news release regarding the decision, the NCAA states that, ‘The waiver exists to provide relief to student-athletes who transfer for academic reasons to pursue graduate studies, not to avoid disciplinary measures at the previous university.’ While it is true that Jeremiah made serious mistakes and was consequently suspended, then removed, from the University of Oregon football team by his coach, it must be emphasized that he remained in good standing with the university. Furthermore, Jeremiah has taken full responsibility for all legal charges against him in the U.S. court system and he has complied with the rulings that have come out of those proceedings,” Faleomavaega added.
Faleomavaega also urged Mr. Lennon and Ms. Willett to examine the circumstances that led to Jeremiah’s suspension, as detailed in the Sports Illustrated investigation into his case, which can be found here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/football/ncaa/07/27/masoli/.
“It is clear that Jeremiah is not the person that the media has portrayed him to be. In fact, several news sources refused to publish corrections after making erroneous and exaggerated claims about Jeremiah’s juvenile criminal record. I would encourage everyone to read the comprehensive, months-long investigation by Sports Illustrated which outlines the extenuating circumstances related to his convictions and shows how police investigations lacked information on critical details. It would be unfortunate if the NCAA’s decision becomes another similar injustice experienced by Jeremiah.”
“In the end, however, it is important to recognize that this is really a case of the NCAA stepping outside of its authority by basing it decisions on arbitrary factors rather than focusing on Jeremiah’s compliance with the explicit rules under which waivers are granted. This practice sets a dangerous precedent which could render the NCAA a discretionary body, using its authority to similarly make unfair decisions in the future.”
“I am hopeful that the NCAA will reverse its decision and allow Jeremiah to play football for the University of Mississippi during the 2010-2011 academic year. It is the fair and right thing to do for this young student-athlete who has not broken any NCAA rules or regulations,” Faleomavaega concluded.