Denial of Rakeem Buckles’ request for a waiver highlights NCAA’s inconsistency

When FIU guard Malik Smith transferred to Minnesota earlier this summer, he received a waiver to play immediately for the Golden Gophers because his former program cannot participate in the postseason next year due to APR violations.

Surely fellow FIU transfer Rakeem Buckles would also receive a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately for the Gophers, right? Well, perhaps not.

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In a ruling strange enough to suggest transfer decisions these days are made by playing rock, paper, scissors, the NCAA denied Buckles' petition to play for the Gophers next season. Minnesota will appeal on the 6-foot-8 senior's behalf in hopes that the initial decision will be overturned.

Unless Buckles wins his appeal, there seems to be little chance he'll ever don a Minnesota jersey. The NCAA typically allows college athletes five years to play four seasons in their chosen sports once their eligibility clock begins, but Buckles would be spending his fifth year redshirting for a second time if he stays at Minnesota but doesn't win his appeal.

It's difficult to ascertain why Smith would receive a waiver and Buckles wouldn't, but the NCAA clearly saw differences in the two cases. The primary difference is this is Buckles' second transfer since he began his career at Louisville under Rick Pitino and left to play for the elder Pitino's son Richard at FIU when injuries and an influx of talent at his position diminished his chances of playing heavy minutes.

It would help Minnesota considerably if Buckles were to win his waiver because the Gophers need a forward who can defend, rebound and protect the rim. Minnesota is thin in the frontcourt next season as a result of the graduation of Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams.

Redshirt juniors Elliott Eliason and Maurice Walker both appear ready to take on larger roles, but Richard Pitino has said the two lumbering big men cannot play together in his fast-paced system. As a result, the Gophers have a significant need for a power forward who can defend and rebound capably, with junior Oto Osenieks and redshirt freshman Charles Buggs likely to have the best chance to fill the void if Buckles cannot play.

Depending on the health of his oft-injured knees, Buckles could have been an impact player for Minnesota. Now he'll need to win his appeal in order to have that chance.

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