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Rutgers Guard Kerwin Okoro Finally Deemed Eligible for 2013-2014 Season

After a long awaited debacle, Kerwin Okoro is definitely all smiles now, with the decision being reversed in his favor.

    After months of waiting, the NCAA made a decision last night on reversing their original decision of deeming Rutger’s Kerwin Okoro ineligible to play next season after transferring from Iowa State.  Former Iowa State guard Kerwin Okoro, a Bronx native, announced he was transferring to Rutgers in May, to be closer to his family after his father died in December from a stroke at age 72 and his brother died from colon cancer two months later at age 28. The NCAA had initially denied his waiver for immediate eligibility, even though it routinely grants them for players who transfer close to home to be near an ailing family member. Originally, Okoro's appeal to play for this season was denied by the NCAA, causing an uproar by numerous critics of the organization. Last season, Trey Zeigler was able to be immediately eligible at Pittsburgh after his father was fired as the head coach at Central Michigan, while Okoro was not allowed to do the same.

    The NCAA issued a release on Nov. 2, 2012 that was supposed to serve the student athlete. It was supposed to show a compassionate, understanding side to an organization that many believe has only held interest in the college students who bring in so many millions of dollars of revenue each year. The release states that hardship waiver requests differ depending on the cases. Under new guidelines, an athlete may now receive a hardship waiver to transfer to a school closer to home in the event that an immediate family member falls ill. Below is an outline of what the player's school must prove in order to be eligible for such a waiver that would allow him or her to play immediately, rather than sit out for one year, as most transfers have to do:

  • The school presents medical documentation of a debilitating injury or illness to a student-athlete's immediate family member that is debilitating and requires ongoing medical care. The previous standard had been "life-threatening."
  • The student-athlete demonstrates he or she will be responsible for regular, ongoing caregiving responsibilities. The previous standard required the student-athlete to be the primary, day-to-day caregiver.
  • The school is within a 100-mile radius of the immediate family member's home, which demonstrates the ability for the student-athlete to provide regular, ongoing care. Previously, no distance limitation was in place.
  • The school to which the student-athlete is transferring must submit a statement from the athletics director and faculty athletics representative confirming that the student-athlete will be relieved of responsibilities to the team in order to care for the injured or ill family member, and that the coaching staff will support such a departure.

    From reading these guidelines, it almost seems like this could have been written up specifically for Okoro. Many believe he was denied due to the particular wording of the hardship waiver rules where death is not included in the documents. Push back to the original ruling was immediate and intense from the media, so much so that Rutgers did not even have to go through the formal appeals process, which can drag out over time. Instead the NCAA changed the decision upon a “reconsideration” by the original ruling panel basically admitting of an mistake. There is little doubt that public pressure played a huge role in the outcome, and Okoro acknowledged as much in a tweet thanking ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, who had championed his cause right from the start. “I’d also like to give a shout out to the great Dickie V for his voice on my waiver!” the sophomore wrote. “Truly honored and it is heavily appreciated!”. So instead of sitting out the upcoming campaign, Okoro will provide backcourt depth to a line-up that remains unsettled.