Shabazz Muhammad, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruinsâ€™ highly-touted freshman from Las Vegas, was declared ineligible by the NCAA because of violations of amateurism rules. Just how many games Muhammad, who was considered the top high school basketball recruit in the country last year, will miss was not immediately announced, but people close to the situation who arenâ€™t authorized to speak publicly said a decision is expected to be announced next week. UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said the school would appeal the ruling. â€œWe are extremely disappointed that the NCAA has made this determination,â€ he said. Later, Guerrero added, â€œI feel bad for the kid.â€
The NCAA said in a statement that in addition to other pending issues, Muhammad accepted travel and lodging during three unofficial visits to two schools. The schools are Duke and North Carolina. The unofficial visits were paid for by North Carolina-based financial adviser Benjamin Lincoln, a person close to the situation said. Lincolnâ€™s brother, Geoff, is an assistant coach at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, where Muhammad went to high school.
Muhammadâ€™s family has said that Lincoln is a friend â€” and the NCAA does allow for financial aid to be awarded to an athlete provided that itâ€™s from someone with a preexisting relationship. But Guerrero said that the NCAA determined the Muhammad familyâ€™s relationship with Lincoln â€œwould not have allowed the support to allow the family to receive the benefits that they got.â€ The school and NCAA enforcement staff agreed on the facts on the case, and therefore it was determined by the NCAA that he couldnâ€™t play Friday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke anonymously because the case is ongoing.
UCLA, even though it has accepted the facts of the case, could disagree that a violation occurred and appeal, as Guerrero said it plans to do. The case then would go to an NCAA appeals committee. If the committee sided with UCLA, Muhammad would probably become eligible immediately. But if the committee ruled that a violation did occur, the appeal would be denied and Muhammad would have to go through a reinstatement process to regain his eligibility.
The other option is that UCLA could accept that there was a violation and go immediately to reinstatement process. Both the appeals and reinstatement processes would be expedited, the person said, because the season is now underway.
After UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero released his statement, stating that the NCAA had â€œfinallyâ€ come to a conclusion on Muhammadâ€™s eligibility, the NCAA released another statement saying it had not received documents in a timely manner, pointing fingers at Muhammadâ€™s family and UCLA. Muhammadâ€™s family subsequently released a statement denouncing the NCAAâ€™s release as being inaccurate. However, the NCAA released a follow-up statement that re-iterated its original statement. A more final ruling is expected with a week or two.