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NCAA comes to its senses, restores Nathan Harries’ fourth year of eligibility

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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The NCAA didn't need long to recognize it had made the wrong decision stripping a year of eligibility from Nathan Harries for playing in three church-league games.

Amid heavy public pressure to reverse its initial ruling, the NCAA reconsidered Thursday and restored the Colgate freshman's fourth year of eligibility before the process reached the appeals stage, a source with knowledge of the situation told Yahoo Sports. Harries' father, Michael Harries, confirmed his son had received the news during a teleconference with NCAA officials Thursday morning.

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"He was relieved and he was excited," Michael Harries said. "It's a big weight off our family's shoulders. Now Nathan can go back to focusing on basketball, contributing to the team and being a great student-athlete. We couldn't ask for a better resolution."

Outcry over the initial ruling stemmed from how illogical it was.

The rule in question is meant to prevent athletes who don't enroll in college immediately after high school from playing games in competitive leagues to gain an advantage over their peers. Harries filled in on a family friend's church-league team for three games after returning from his Mormon Mission this past summer, but the league was a far cry from those the rule is intended to target.

Michael Harries said Wednesday that most of the players are guys in their 30s trying to run off their beer bellies and have a little fun after work. There were seldom fans in the bleachers to watch teams with names like "Make it Drizzle" or "Respect My Car."

"The NCAA is trying to discourage players from getting an unfair advantage by playing in high-level leagues, but that's absolutely not the case here," the elder Harries said Wednesday. "This was a typical after-work league in Atlanta, some former high school players and some who haven't played hardly at all. Nobody's in the gym except the teams and the referees. It's organized, but it's an old man's league."

Thankfully for everyone involved, it appears the NCAA has come to its senses and realized it was in the wrong.

The case followed a very similar timeline to the one involving Middle Tennessee football player Steven Rhodes a few months ago. Rhodes was initially denied eligibility because he played in a few recreational games while serving in the Marines, but the NCAA reversed its decision after Middle Tennessee argued it was a glorified intramural league that hardly gave Rhodes a competitive edge.

If there's a silver lining in both situations, Michael Harries believes it's that it could inspire change in the future.

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"I'm just hopeful the NCAA revisits this rule and refines it or takes a more common-sense approach so this doesn't happen again," the elder Harries said.

Indeeed, hopefully in the future, NCAA administrators will give their staff the flexibility to make the logical decision in the initial ruling rather than strictly enforcing rules even if the outcome flies in the face of common sense.

It's great that Nathan Harries regained his fourth year of eligibility, but that final year never should have been in jeopardy in the first place.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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