Adoption of Florida DT by a booster could create an NCAA loophole

Dr. Saturday

A year ago, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was suspended two games and forced to repay $3,000 in impermissible benefits he received from a booster named Kevin Lahn.

After the suspension ended, Lahn adopted the 20-year-old junior creating questions about whether Lahn and his family had created a loophole to get around NCAA rules.

In a USA Today story Tuesday, writer Rachel George questioned whether adopting a player could be a new way for boosters to give underprivileged (and talented) players a leg-up without setting off any NCAA alarms.

Floyd, a junior for the seventh-ranked Gators and a possible first-round pick in the NFL draft, now receives far more from his adoptive father, Kevin Lahn, than he was punished for taking last year. Under NCAA rules, there are virtually no limits to what a parent can provide to an athlete but a slew of restrictions on what a player can receive from anyone else.

"(The adoption) was not something we planned, but it's been a natural fit," Lahn said in an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports.

The article outlines several of the perks Floyd — and several of Floyd's friends — has received as a member of the Lahn family, including a new SUV, an apartment, a trip to Disney World and a ride on a yacht with four of his close friends.

"There was no ulterior motive on either part. It was just that they bonded really well," says Steve Gordon, a close friend of Floyd and Lahn told the paper. "[Adoption is] a huge load. You can't do it for an ulterior motive other than that you actually have love and concern for the kid and their well-being."

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The article likens Floyd's adoption to that of former Ole Miss offensive lineman Michael Oher. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy adopted Oher in high school, put him in the same prep school their kids attended and helped him choose their alma mater of Ole Miss. After a thorough investigation, the NCAA determined no rules had been violated.

John Infante, a former assistant compliance director at Colorado State and Loyola Marymount and author of the Bylaw Blog, says the NCAA likely wouldn't want to get involved in assessing the legitimacy of adoptions and trying to determine whether they have been done to formalize an existing relationship or to find a way around the rules to provide benefits.

"It's between a rock and a hard place, because, on one hand, you let this go, if you're saying this is the one thing we're not going to touch — parents and legal guardians — well then you've established a way around the rules where AAU coaches, runners, agents, boosters just adopt kids and start providing for them," he says. "You can basically do whatever you want."

It's seems like a lot of work to use adoption to circumvent NCAA rules. Adopting someone is a rigorous process and a lifelong commitment not only financially but emotionally. But it's an interesting theory and one that does need to at least be acknowledged by the NCAA.

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