NCAA rules UCLA's Muhammad ineligible
LOS ANGELES -- No. 13 UCLA took a big loss before its season even began on Friday night.
The NCAA ruled freshman Shabazz Muhammad is ineligible to play basketball after violating amateurism rules, leaving the Bruins without their highly touted recruit to start the season.
The school announced the NCAA's ruling in a statement from athletic director Dan Guerrero about 80 minutes before the Bruins' season opener against Indiana State on Friday night, which was expected to be a celebration of the reopening of newly renovated Pauley Pavilion.
"The NCAA has finally determined that a violation of the NCAA amateurism rules has occurred involving UCLA freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad and his family," Guerrero said. "As a result, he is ineligible for competition at this time. We are extremely disappointed that the NCAA has made this determination."
Guerrero said UCLA believes "the decision is incorrect and unjust to Shabazz."
He said the school will pursue its options to challenge the NCAA ruling.
The NCAA didn't give a timetable for Muhammad's ineligibility in its statement. It said he "is not eligible to compete in tonight's game due to violations of NCAA amateurism rules. In addition to other pending issues, Muhammad accepted travel and lodging during three unofficial visits to two NCAA member schools."
The NCAA had been investigating Muhammad for months involving alleged improper benefits he received in his recruitment from boosters of his Las Vegas AAU program and the alleged improper acceptance of airline flights for some of his recruiting visits. He chose UCLA over Kentucky and Duke.
The NCAA said its staff requested specific documents on July 31 to help evaluate Muhammad's eligibility. However, the NCAA said its enforcement staff didn't receive the majority of the requested documents for review until Sept. 25, followed by more information on Oct. 10, and what it called "additional critical information" on Nov. 1.
Muhammad's parents were interviewed last week, according to the NCAA. It said NCAA staff and UCLA submitted the agreed-upon facts on Nov. 9 and a decision was rendered within hours.
Muhammad tweeted, "Cool shirts some fans made and will wear tonight if I don't play in the game!!!!" He attached a photo of a blue T-shirt with his face that said "Free Shabazz" and added the hashtag (hash)lovethefansthough.
A fan at the game held up a sign with the same expression. Muhammad's photo and jersey number were shown during pre-game introductions on the video board.
Muhammad had been practicing with the Bruins until he strained his right shoulder on Oct. 25. Coach Ben Howland said this week that Muhammad was "real close" to being able to play, pending the outcome of the NCAA probe.
"The guy is 18 and he just wants to play," center Joshua Smith said this week. "He's waiting and waiting and waiting to hear something. He's at every practice watching or on the sideline getting ready."
Howland said last week that he was "very confident" about Muhammad being cleared to play.
Freshman Kyle Anderson was cleared to play by the NCAA last week after being investigated for potential recruiting violations. The NCAA said it found no evidence to substantiate such claims. The forward from Jersey City, N.J., was among the nation's top recruits last spring and was projected to start Friday night's game at Pauley.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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