NCAA's Indiana suspensions just plain silly

On Tuesday night, as the election returns poured in, an Indiana athletics spokesman distributed a release with news of the eligibility of Indiana freshmen forwards Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Parea. We'd been waiting for this exact piece of information, and lo, here it was.

With bated breath, I scrolled the first paragraph:

Calling Indiana University’s corrective actions “substantial and meaningful,” the NCAA on October 31, 2012, ac¬≠cepted as secondary a case IU filed with it on June 22, 2012. In short, that case involves the provision of what would generally have been permissible expenses but for the provider’s donation of $185 to the IU Varsity Club between 1986 and 1992, rendering him forever a “booster” under NCAA rules, notwithstanding that the donations were minimal in nature and occurred over 20 years ago.

After having seen that exact same paragraph, my buddy wrote me an email. It read:

Is it wrong I didn’t read anything past this opening paragraph of the PR? The NCAA is very odd to me. The word that keeps coming to mind is “silly." This is silly.

You know ... I could end this post right there. I think that just about sums it up.

Mosquera-Parea and Jurkin will both serve a nine-game suspension, and be forced to repay separate sums of money to selected charities, as part of NCAA enforcement's decision this week. Why? Because their former AAU coach/legal guardian donated $185 to Indiana two decades ago. True story!

In case you're still confused, here's the deal: Throughout their prep careers, Mosquera-Parea and Jurkin both lived with their AAU coach and assumed legal guardian, Mark Adams. Adams is a 54-year-old government worker and the founder of African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education (A-HOPE), a program that scouts foreign basketball talent and attempts to place its players in college programs en route to a college education. (Questions have been raised in the college hoops community about Adams' methods; ESPN "Outside the Lines" investigative reporter Mike Fish delved deeply into Adams and A-HOPE in a multi-part series last year.)

But anyway, back to IU's forwards. During the investigation, NCAA enforcement officials discovered Adams had, during that time, provided Mosquera-Parea and Jurkin with $9,702 and $6,003 (respectively) in plane tickets, meals, housing, a laptop computer, a cellphone and clothing. Again, through A-HOPE, Adams was the players' legal guardian. These are the kinds of things you buy when you are a high school basketball prospect's legal guardian. As such, they are what the NCAA would typically call "permissible" benefits.

These are not permissible benefits, however, for one reason only: Adams donated $185 to Indiana athletics over the course of seven years, from 1986 to 1992. What was that money for? According to Adams, they were yearly checks written by his wife to purchase IU alumni bumper stickers. As such, that small amount of money, given more than two decades ago, is the reason Adams is considered by the NCAA to be a "booster," and why he is not allowed to pay for his adopted sons' cell phone bills, and why Parea must pay back $1,590 and Jurkin $250 and why both must sit out IU's first nine games of the season.

I mean, even the NCAA's own wording makes it sound ridiculous:

"Despite the minimal nature of Mr. Adams' donations, and the fact that the last donation he made was more than 15 years before he provided expenses to a prospective student-athlete who enrolled at the institution," the NCAA wrote in its letter to the school. "Mr. Adams must be considered a representative of the institution's athletics interests."

Actually, no, NCAA Enforcement Zombie Squadron, he really does not. There is the spirit of the law and the letter of the law, and then there is sticking so closely to the letter of the law you become so stupid and inflexible that the entire point of the law in the first place goes whizzing by your head so fast you don't even see it, like a housefly on the highway. This is one of those times, guys.

The good news for Indiana fans is that it theoretically could have been worse. You never know with eligibility/amateurism cases. Nine games -- which will cost the duo the Legends Classic and a matchup with North Carolina but will have them back in time to face Butler Dec. 15 -- is not exactly a tragedy, team-wise. They'll be back in time for Big Ten play, with plenty of time to work in, and besides -- Indiana is already pretty good. Were the extenuating circumstances of the punishment not so completely insane, IU fans could walk away from Tuesday night's news feeling pretty much OK.

But, of course, the extenuating circumstances are insane.

It is always all too easy to pick on the NCAA, to work up a lather and write about "hypocrisy," to bring out all the hand-wringing you can muster in 500 or 1,000 words. But sometimes, the fine folks in Indianapolis are kind enough to do all the work the for you. In times like these, the best you can do is sit back, shrug, and marvel at the sheer, unrelenting, magnificent silliness of it all.