Not as messy as the Brett Favre situation but messy all the same.
Dwight Jones makes the commitment to come play football at UNC, does not initially qualify so he heads to prep school to get himself eligible, believes he has done so only to have UNC tell him he did not qualify. In this case Jones moved on making the move to Valdosta State to pursure a career at the Division II level. That is when the mistake was discovered in how his eligibility was determined and from there the dominoes fell that eventually led him to Chapel Hill. So what happened? That and other questions are undoubtedly being bantered around the UNC athletic department in trying to ascertain how Jones slipped through the cracks. The situation itself leads me to a few questions of mine own.
1. Who's Fault Was It?
Recruits wanting to play a sport anywhere must go through the NCAA Eligibility Center. Of course when an issue like this comes up the first name that should jump to mind if you have been paying any attention to the Tar Heels in the past 10-12 years is Jason Parker. Parker was a former high school basketball standout from Charlotte who committed to play for UNC but later determined not to qualify. As it turns out, Parker was eligible after all and Kentucky snatched him up. Parker ultimately flopped in Lexington but had he been able to matriculate at UNC, who knows, it may have gone differently.
This case was a tad more complicated and in many ways it is easy to see how the NCAA went about applying the wrong standard. After Jones attended Hargrave he asked for eligibility to be evaluated again and since he was shooting for entry in fall of 2008 the standard for the previous academic year was used. The problem was Jones graduated in 2007 which meant those standards should have been the ones they applied since those were the ones Jones thought he was trying to meet. Given the number of student athletes the NCAA deals with in the course of a year and the number of times the NCAA changes their standards a mistake like this was inevitable.
2. Is Dwight Jones Eligible?
Yes. I have read plenty of debates online among fans about how UNC is pulling a fast one in having Jones declared eligible. This is not the issue. Jones is indeed eligible according to the standards he originally applied under. The way this saga has unfolded has plenty of ABCers screaming favortism or asserting, in their usual misguided fashion, that the NCAA is kowtowing to UNC. On the issue of the acadmic eligibility that is simply not the case.
3. What about the move from Valdosta State to UNC?
That is completely different issue, altogether. Jones, who was convinced he would never step foot on a DI field to play football, did the only thing he could and found another place to play. Apparently he was declared eligible for DII but not DI because the number of core classes required is different. So Jones made his decision believing that was the end of it. UNC discovered otherwise and initiated the process to get Jones to Chapel Hill. This is where things get a tad sticky. With Jones already on the field practicing with Valdosta, the possibility that transfer rules, which require an athlete moving up to DI in football or basketball to sit one season would kick in. It also looks odd in general for UNC to have Jones leave one school to attend UNC with practice already under way.
Once UNC had Jones declared eligible they also applied for a waiver so Jones could matriculate in Chapel Hill this season. The NCAA, seeing the confluence of events as being a fruit of the poisonous tree i.e. the improper eligibility determination, decided to make things right and allow Jones to move to UNC without penalty. Yes, it is a strange set of events and has some people screaming bloody murder because the NCAA made an exception to accommodate a player and it benefits UNC. In my opinion, this was all correcting a mistake made several months ago and as much as we criticize the NCAA for the rampant stupidity that streams from them we should be satisfied in this case they were able to get their heads out of their own rear ends long enough to correct an error.
4. Did UNC impunge it's integrity in this whole business?
In short: No. I read where some folks are questioning admitting Jones because his academics are questionable. I think these folks have simply not been paying attention. This is not the first time nor will it be the last that UNC brings in players in football or basketball for that matter with borderline academics. What most folks do not understand is the UNC system operates on tough restrictions as it is and UNC has a committee that works to evaluate cases like Jones to determine if can do the academic load or not. You also have extensive support services for athletes so while Jones and others might be on the line, I think UNC probably does a good job of helping these kids along. Integrity is relative in college athletics and I think UNC as well as other ACC schools hold a higher standard that schools in other conferences which leaves me confident Jones is going to be just fine at UNC.
5. So isn't most of this whining coming from idiotic ABCers?
Well, yeah and some of it comes from NCSU fans who have yet to get over the fact their 27-0 team in 1973 was made to sit home from postseason because of issues regarding the recruitment of David Thompson. Anytime UNC and the NCAA interact the talk of grand conspiracies heat up because these folks have nothing better to do apparently than worry about UNC running their own Free Mason Illiumanti conspiracy to control the NCAA and the media. It simply is not the case.
Nothing to see here.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Okay, looks like a couple of black cars with men in suits and sunglasses are pulling up in the driveway so let me go now.