First as Tragedy, then as Parse* – The Silas Nacita case

BU vs TCU

*The original quote from Marx, upon which this is a very bad word play, comes from here. Yesterday, it was widely reported that Silas Nacita, a walk on running back at Baylor University, had lost his eligibility to play because he accepted an improper benefit. The benefit: Nacita was homeless and was offered a place to stay, so he took it. Nacita originally tweeted that he had been offered housing by “a close family friend.” As a result, Nacita said, “[b]ecause I accepted that offer instead of choosing to be homeless, I am no longer eligible to play football and pursue my dream. I had no idea I was breaking any rules, but I respect the decision of the NCAA.” Later yesterday, the NCAA said it had no role in the declaration of ineligibility and further asserted that Baylor University itself had not asked for a waiver of NCAA rules.

Further questions then surfaced about Nacita’s account. Today, Nacita clarified his story: he acknowledged that only one member of the family that offered shelter could properly be called a “close family friend” at the time the offer was made. Further, Nacita conceded, he had been warned by compliance officers at Baylor that the housing offer might indeed constitute an improper benefit. Consequently, Nacita’s now says it is incumbent upon him to take “full responsibility for my choice to accept these inappropriate benefits” and the dismissal from the team that has resulted. (By the way, Nacita transferred from Cornell, and was originally homeless during the 2013-14 school year, the year he was forced to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules). To recap, yesterday Nacita said the NCAA ruled him ineligible because a close family friend offered him housing so he wouldn’t be homeless. By stark contrast, today we learn that it was Baylor that ruled him ineligible because he accepted housing so as not to be homeless from someone who was not totally a close friend.

I know I feel much better now.

The NCAA’s rules on amateurism, as we’ve discussed numerous times, are demented. Amateurism defines the participants, not the enterprise (how convenient!). Players are “exploited” only if they make money. Preventing them from doing so, therefore, is “protecting” them from exploitation (Seriously. They really say that!). Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, about the ultimately trivial parsing in Nacita’s account from one day to the next changes the sheer ridiculousness of it all. He was homeless. He accepted housing from people he knew so he could have a roof over his head. As a result, he can’t play college football anymore. If you want to argue that Baylor had no choice, that’s fine. But, my god, talk about missing the forest for the trees.

And don’t forget what NCAA President Emmert reminds us of constantly – the association is nothing more than a reflection of the will of its member schools. Collectively, NCAA members and the association itself are enforcing a simply indefensible alternate reality.

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