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NCAA has precedent in Lawrence Roberts case


Nov. 3, 2004
There should be no hesitation in declaring Mississippi State All-American Lawrence Roberts eligible immediately. Any question of whether he should be allowed to play in the regular season opener at the Coaches vs. Classic tournament should be wiped away. He should not be forced to sit out any games.

Lawrence Roberts
Lawrence Roberts averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds last season for SEC champion Mississippi State.
Do you hear me, NCAA?

The NCAA is looking into the workout Roberts had with the Portland Trail Blazers last spring when he was considering making the jump to the NBA.

Roberts withdrew from the draft, but he might have to miss up to three games this season for accepting money from Portland to attend the workout -- even though that money was paid back.

Roberts, who is practicing with the Bulldogs, did everything right when he visited Portland. His mother reimbursed the Trail Blazers after they originally covered his expenses. He did everything by the rules.

Has there been precedent in this situation before? Yes, when you consider what Notre Dame senior Chris Thomas went through two years ago when he entered the NBA draft and later withdrew.

I know that the Irish point guard kept records of his trips. There were copies of every expense that was incurred, and the family reimbursed those involved. The NCAA confirmed that was the procedure that had to be followed.

The bottom line is that Thomas lost no eligibility. Roberts should receive the same consideration.

Regarding the question of whether a prospect must pay for a trip before or after the workout, it seems to me that it depends on whom you talk to in the NCAA office. In this case, though, Roberts' family already has paid back the Trail Blazers.

Roberts did not gain any advantage. It would be a shame if he lost any time. The NCAA should do the right thing and make sure he's eligible from the get-go.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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