Obscure NCAA Rule Dooms ‘Noles WR Surrency

If someone has a widget, and the operation of said widget begins to produce undesirable consequences, the logical course of action would be A) rectify whatever problems occurred, then B) fix the widget so those problems never happen again. Seems simple enough, right? Okay, let’s replace “widget” with “rule.” And then “someone” with “the NCAA.” Uh-oh.

Corey Surrency
(Surrency, prior to getting supremely dicked by the system.)

In yet another instance of an arcane rule working against its intended effect, Florida State wideout Corey Surrency has been suspended before his senior season. No, Surrency didn’t violate any team rules, cheat on a test, or get a DUI or anything. According to the ORLANDO SENTINEL, his transgression (we’re dead serious about this): playing for a minor league football team before he got to FSU but after his 21st birthday.

And the worst part? He was only in that league to get enough money to go to college in the first place. Surrency is already 24, and his path to FSU has been unusual at best. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade in order to help his family, then later spent 90 days in jail for a variety of offenses. As he worked to turn his life around, he turned to the Florida Kings, a team that, as the Sentinel puts it, “has helped athletes with troubled pasts to earn opportunities to play in college.” He then made his way to El Camino Community College before landing a scholarship at Florida State as a criminal justice major.

Fast forward to today, as Surrency gears up for his senior season. In steps the NCAA, who declares him ineligible under Rule 14.2.3.5, which states:

Any participation as an individual or a team representative in organized sports competition by a student during each 12-month period after the student’s 21st birthday and prior to initial full-time enrollment in a collegiate institution shall count as one year of varsity competition in that sport. Participation in organized competition during time spent in the U.S. armed services shall be excepted.

Basically, if you play an organized sport between your 21st birthday and enrolling in college, that counts as one year of eligibility gone. The trouble is that, especially in football, athletes spend such little time outside the academic world that the rule never needs to be enforced. And even now, it’s hard to say that the rule “needs to be enforced.”

DR. SATURDAY points out that an NCAA spokeswoman says the rule “is designed ‘to minimize competitive advantage’ by ensuring a ‘normal progression’ through high school and the entry to college.” The good Doctor also recognizes the inherent bullcrap in its enforcement against Surrency:

Obviously, the rule is not designed to necessarily cater to individual athletes’ best interests, which in Surrency’s case is to remain in school another year and earn his degree, like anyone else in his situation who has the will, the means and the grades. It’s tone-deaf bureaucracy par excellence: If the rule didn’t exist, no one would think to look for it; no one would think twice about any practical, non-bureaucratic issues, or feel the need to think up some kind of tangible problem that would result from Surrency finishing out the usual string.

Chris Brown at SMART FOOTBALL looks at Surrency’s chances for a successful appeal, which has already been filed on his behalf by FSU. The prospects, of course, are grim. That means no more football, no more scholarship, no more college for a young man who’s trying to become the first person in his family to earn a degree (and who certainly can’t afford to do that himself).

If you’re Florida State, the right thing to do is immediately and blindingly obvious: issue a public statement that if the appeal is denied and Surrency’s eligibility is indeed revoked, he will have a need-based full scholarship waiting for him so that he may finish his degree. It would cost the school a few thousand dollars. The return on that investment, through sheer good will and good PR, though, would be limitless.