Morgan State player sues NCAA, school over weird five-year clock eligibility ruling

Rob Dauster
NBC Sports

A Morgan State basketball player has taken his eligibility fight with the NCAA to the courtroom after he was ruled ineligible due to the way the NCAA determines a player’s eligibility clock.

First, some background. The way that the NCAA’s five-year clock works is pretty simple: An athlete has five years to use four years of eligibility as a student-athlete, and the clock starts ticking as soon as they enroll in college. Some exceptions can be made — like, for example, Jalan West of Northwestern State, who received a waiver for a seventh-year of eligibility after a pair of torn ACLs — but it requires the NCAA to determine the athlete should receive a waiver.

Enter Andrew Hampton. He’s currently a 24-year old accounting major and a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society, according to the Baltimore Sun, but he also happens to be heading into his seventh year in college. Hampton initially enrolled at Mount St. Mary’s in 2011 — as a student, not as an athlete — and also spent time at Montgomery College, a two-year school where he also did not play sports, before finally enrolling at Morgan State in the fall of 2013. He walked onto the team in 2013-14 and averaged less than 15 minutes per game in a total of 18 games in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Hampton did not play last season, however, as the NCAA ruled that his eligibility clock started when he enrolled at Mount St. Mary’s back in 2011.

In a lawsuit recently filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, Hampton argues that he should be allowed to play this season because his clock should not have started until he began playing basketball in 2013. He also named Morgan State in the lawsuit, according to the Sun, because they have refused to appeal the ruling.

On the one hand, the NCAA’s rule makes sense. It would be easy to envision a way for a school to enroll a player for a year — maybe finding a booster or some other form of financial aid to pay his tuition — then redshirt him for another year before having four years of eligibility remaining when the athlete is older. This would probably make more sense on the football side of things, but it works in basketball, too.

And frankly, the initial decision by the NCAA to rule Hampton ineligible isn’t all that absurd, either. Given the number of eligibility cases the NCAA deals with on an annual basis, it makes sense for them to make initial rulings strictly by the book, allowing the appeals process to weed out the people that actually have a valid argument for why a certain rule shouldn’t apply to them.

Which brings me to Morgan State. Why wouldn’t they appeal this ruling? Is there more to this story? Do the Bears not want Hampton on the roster?

The NCAA should give Hampton one more year of basketball. Hampton is a role player on a team that went 11-5 in the MEAC and finished under-.500 last season. The bad publicity is never worth it, particularly not when the only thing Hampton did wrong was decide he wanted to play college basketball two years into his college career.

But at this point — meaning until more information comes out — I think this is less on the NCAA than it is on Morgan State. How can they make a decision on an appeal that never got filed/

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