St. John’s University, a member of the Big East Conference, is working with the NCAA to confirm the eligibility of incoming basketball student-athlete Maurice Harkness. Harkless, who is widely recognized as St. John’s top recruit and is the 38th ranked player in the Class of 2011 according to ESPNU, played with an AAU team where St. John’s director of basketball operations, Moe Hicks, served in an administrative role.
The potential eligibility question revolves around NCAA Bylaw 11.4.2. NCAA Bylaw 11.4.2, which was adopted on January 16, 2010, states “in men’s basketball, during a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete’s anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the prospective student-athlete’s actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ (or enter into a contract for future employment with) an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position.” Further, if an institution hires an individual associated with a prospect (IAWP) for a noncoaching staff position within two years on either side of enrollment, the involved student-athlete will be permanently ineligible to compete at the offending institution. Essentially what this bylaw does is force the institution to choose between the IAWP or the student-athlete.
The test the NCAA will follow in order to determine if a violation of NCAA Bylaw 11.4.2 occurred is to identify whether Hicks was a IAWP and whether a prohibited activity occurred. In order to determine whether Hicks was an IAWP the NCAA will first look to see whether Hicks maintained contact with Harkness, his relatives or guardians, or his coach. If this contact was maintained then the NCAA will look to see if the contact was directly or indirectly related to Harkness’s athletic skills and abilities or his recruitment to St. John’s. If based on these facts it is determined that Hicks is a IAWP, the NCAA will next look to see whether a prohibited interaction or activity occurred. The prohibited activity here would be that Hicks was in a noncoaching staff position at St. John’s during Harkness’s recruitment to St. John’s.
In this case, St. John’s will likely argue that Hicks was in an administrative role with the AAU team and therefore was not an IAWP during Harkness’s recruitment. Whether or not the NCAA determines Harkness ineligible to compete at St. John’s, the Michael Buckner Law Firm recommends that institution’s take the following steps in order to prevent this type of issue from arising.
- Ensure that NCAA Bylaw 11.4.2 is emphasized as a part of the men’s basketball rules education program.
- Create a “Google Alert” for both prospective student-athletes and all men’s basketball staff members to identify possible IAWP issues.
- Conduct a thorough review of men’s basketball prospect lists, official and unofficial visit records, and emergency contact information for PSAs and SAs to identify possible IAWP issues.
- Design and implement a system for spot checking men’s basketball recruiting logs and phone records to identify possible IAWP issues.
- Contact the Basketball Focus Group with any questions regarding possible IAWP issues.