Kentucky must now seek Morris' reinstatement
Randolph Morris is ineligible -- for now -- after an NCAA committee ruled Wednesday that his relationship with an agency during his NBA draft experience last spring was a violation, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
Kentucky must now seek his reinstatement to see if the sophomore center will play this season. The NCAA's reinstatement committee would determine if Morris is ineligible as a college athlete, or is subject to a game penalty. Morris is practicing with the Wildcats but has missed Kentucky's first six games. If Morris is allowed to play this season and given a game penalty, the games he missed would be applied to his penalty.
Multiple sources told ESPN.com that the membership services division in the NCAA initially ruled that Morris would be ineligible.
Kentucky was searching for an interpretation of one part of its case, whether Morris' relationship with SFX constituted a violation. Kentucky contended that Morris didn't sign an agreement with SFX. But the NCAA's definition of an agreement includes a verbal commitment. SFX represented Morris during the NBA draft and was the contact for NBA teams for all his workouts. SFX also set up and paid for a workout for Morris at the Lakeshore Athletic Club in Chicago during the NBA draft camp week the first week in June. Morris worked out for a handful of teams and, in at least one case that ESPN.com has knowledge of with the Houston Rockets, Morris didn't pay for all his expenses in advance. NCAA rules clearly state a player must pay for his draft workout expenses in advance or else suffer a potential penalty once he chooses to return to college.
SFX also issued a press release saying that Morris was staying in the NBA draft. Morris wasn't drafted. He met with Kentucky coach Tubby Smith over the summer and asked to return to school. He maintained his academic standing.
The NCAA issued this statement Wednesday night to ESPN.com: "The NCAA Division I Legislative Review and Interpretations Committee heard an appeal Wednesday by the University of Kentucky of an NCAA interpretation in the Randolph Morris case.
"The staff interpretation was part of a cooperative investigation by the institution and national office into the facts of the case and whether those facts rose to the level of violations of NCAA bylaws. The interpretation in question is just one part of a very complex case.
"A regular function of the NCAA Membership Services staff is to interpret rules and how they apply to a particular situation or activity. The LRIC, which is made up of nine representatives from NCAA member conferences and institutions, serves as an appellate body for institutions and conferences that disagree with staff decisions. The LRIC's decision may be appealed to the NCAA Division I Management Council.
"Unless an appeal to the Management Council is sought by the institution, the decision by the LRIC should finalize which activities in this case constitute violations of NCAA bylaws.
"The institution may now choose to present the facts of the case to the Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff at the NCAA. Staff will make a determination as to whether the student-athlete should be reinstated and, if so, whether conditions such as repayment of extra benefits and/or withholding from competition are necessary. Should the latter be necessary, credit would be given for regular-season games the student-athlete has already missed."
NCAA spokesperson Kent Barrett said he expected the process to move swiftly from this point forward.
Meanwhile, Kentucky's lawyer in this case, former NCAA staff member Rick Evrard, told ESPN.com that Kentucky couldn't ask for Morris' reinstatement until it had closure on the interpretation of the facts of the case.
Kentucky school officials declined comment.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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