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NCAA changes hardship waiver guidelines in response to outcry over Kerwin Okoro

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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One month after the denial of Kerwin Okoro's waiver request sparked national outcry, the NCAA has done the sensible thing.

Not only has it reversed course and granted Okoro's petition to play right away this season at Rutgers, it also has amended the flawed wording of the rule that led to his waiver being denied in the first place.

NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon told CBSSports.com on Monday student-athletes will no longer have to sit out a year if they transfer closer to home as a result of the death of an immediate family member. The NCAA initially denied Okoro's hardship waiver last month even though the 6-foot-5 Bronx native left Iowa State to be closer to his family after his father died in December from a stroke at age 72 and his brother died from colon cancer two months later at age 28.

"If somebody transfers after the death of an immediate family member, now the staff is armed with guidelines from the committee that says, 'We want you to look at this differently,'" Lennon told CBSSports.com. "That's the guideline moving forward."

Give the NCAA credit for making the appropriate decision to reword this rule, but it's still hard to believe this wasn't obvious in the first place.

At a time when players receive hardship waivers as a result of the firing of their father or the illness of a relative, someone at the NCAA should have realized how it would look if the death of Okoro's father and brother wasn't given the same weight. Instead the issue likely didn't rise high enough up the decision-making food chain, resulting in national outrage and a PR calamity that could easily have been avoided.

The rule change will be part of Okoro's legacy, but he won't be the only one who benefits.

Drew Wilson, who started 18 games for Missouri State last season, transferred to Oral Roberts this spring to be closer to home after the death of his sister. The NCAA initially denied the 6-foot-7 forward's waiver request, but announced over the weekend that it had changed its mind. Wilson, like Okoro, will not have to sit out a year.

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