If you haven’t heard already, Minnesota defensive back Craig McDonald was approved for immediate eligibility this week. Much like Tez Walker, McDonald was kept off of the football field due to the 11th hour two-time transfer rule that was put into place earlier this year. If one were to present this situation to an outside third-party, it’s expected that they would ask what the difference is in these two cases. McDonald played at Iowa State and Auburn, so why does he get to play for this third school but Walker doesn’t?
Honestly, we may never get the answer to that question.
Because of the unevenness of how the rules are being applied, a lot of Carolina fans are rightfully angry online about it. There are claims being made that the NCAA has made the Tez Walker situation personal, and that they are basically taunting UNC by approving McDonald’s eligibility. Considering all of the attention that the situation has gotten from fans, national media, and coaches, it’s understandable why this theory has gained traction.
Here’s my counter-argument, though: what if the NCAA just has no idea what they’re doing? What if this larger-than-life authority over college athletics is so incapable of applying rules evenly and fairly that they were shown two identical pictures next to each other, and for some reason decided they were different? Hanlon’s razor tells us to never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, and that certainly seems like the case with the NCAA.
I want to make this clear: I am very glad that McDonald’s eligibility got approved. Anybody that tried to transfer prior to the rule being put into place should be eligible, and that’s been the point this entire time. But the NCAA for years has proven that nothing they do is consistent: we all remember during the academic scandal when other schools were being outed for having easy/suspicious classes, right? Then there was the FBI situation that involved actual felonies — it also involved the NCAA conducting an investigation that felt like it never actually ended. Kansas ended up suspending Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend themselves, and while they were able to go through the appeals process, Auburn later ended up receiving four years of probation from the league.
These are obviously just two of the more high-profile examples in recent history, but the point is that the Tez Walker situation may just be putting the NCAA’s incompetence front and center for the country to see more so than it feeling like a direct attack on UNC. If they are fully aware that Walker could lawyer up, why would they make such a spiteful decision and stick with it when it is—on paper—such an easy case for Walker to win? It feels like it takes a certain level of self-loathing as a governing body to be so adamant that they made the right decision with one player and yet made a completely different decision for another player with such a similar situation. The most logical explanation, in my opinion, is that the NCAA lacks institutional control, which is funny considering how many times they’ve accused schools of that very thing.
Congratulations to Minnesota for being able to ensure that Craig McDonald will be able to play football this season, and to the NCAA, keep up the bad work. Hopefully one day you won’t even get to do that anymore.