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How is Eric Bledsoe Different that Michael Oher?

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When the mob mentality starts in the media, one can quickly find some of the genres worst written pieces and “breaking stories”, released in an attempt to be relevant during the mad rush. Dana O’Neil-Forde’s piece yesterday was a classic example. In an attempt to release “breaking news”, O’Neil Forde produced a 500 word article that contained essentially one piece of new information. She quoted a “source” as saying that if Bledsoe were to be found to have taken money, it could be in violation of the NCAA rules. If by “source”, O’Neil means “anyone with access to an NCAA Rulebook”, then yes, O’Neil-Forde has scooped out the rest of the journalists out there. However my guess is that O’Neil-Forde found someone at the NCAA to talk, saw a chance to throw out there the possibility that UK could lose wins and said “A-HA another Calipari headline to get on the ESPN crawl!” She then joined her other anti-Calipari colleagues in a (strictly platonic I am sure) hug and set out to find more news, such as who paid for Ramon Harris’s new tattoo.

But rather than just making fun of O’Neil-Forde’s column, it is worth asking whether there is anything to it and whether UK could have to forfeit games due to the $1200 allegedly given to Bledsoe by his coach. Leaving aside the question of proof (which ESPN does not in its article), it seems as if a strict reading of the NCAA rules could make one believe that such money could lead to a finding of ineligibility. Now there have been high-profile cases in which players have been given money by those outside of a college’s reach (like Corey Maggette and his AAU coach) and nothing was done. But those rules were altered recently, and so past precedent cant be relied upon for the issue. And because of that, the people I have spoken to say it isnt really clear what the NCAA would do as it is under their complete discretion (oh joy!).

So without any knowledge on what WILL happen, my question is simply this. If taking money from someone that isnt in your family and has no connection to the University where you attend is an NCAA violation, then how is Eric Bledsoe different than Michael Oher? You know the Oher story by now. Poor kid ends up in a different high school so he can play football…while there a family sees his poverty and takes him in and helps the kid grow as a person and a football player, leading him to a career at Ole Miss and now with the Baltimore Ravens. The story was so great, a movie was made and Sandra Bullock won an Oscar. But if the NCAA rules are as O’Neil-Forde suggested, isnt this the same kind of violation? Poor kid, helped by someone else for living expenses and in the process takes an “outside benefit” by NCAA rules. No connection to the University where he attends is found (in Bledsoe’s case, the coach who allegedly gave him money wanted him to go to Florida, and said so publically even after he signed with Kentucky) and most believe the decision was an act of kindness on the part of the person paying the rent/living expense. Should the movie producers make a sequel to the movie, “Blind Side 2”, where NCAA investigators put Ole Miss on probation and take away their (very few) wins?

The reality is that if any person helping a poor kid with expenses is a violation, hundreds of kids in the NCAA are ineligible. There are very few kids who are the bottom levels of poverty, who havent had a coach, family friend or teacher, help them out along the way so they could continue to pursue their talent. And as I said yesterday, not only is that not a bad thing, it is a GREAT thing for humanity. The NCAA cant simply go down the route that such benefits when not connected to a school are nevertheless against the NCAA rules unless it wants to (a) stop all forms of charity for any poor kid that happens to be athletically gifted or (b) wants to simply single out Kentucky. The first seems highly unlikely….lets hope the second does as well.

Article written by Matt Jones