INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana thought it finally had a 7-footer to compete in the Big Ten.
Now the Hoosiers must fill a big void.
School officials said Tuesday that Martinique native Guy-Marc Michel had been declared ineligible by the NCAA after playing five games with a professional French club team in 2007-08.
The school's appeal also was rejected because the committee determined Michel had accepted a professional contract and had enrolled in college in 2006, meaning he would not have enough time to regain his eligibility before his five-year college career ended after this season.
"For his amateurism issues, typically the penalty is to sit out one year," said Julie Cromer, Indiana's senior associate athletic director for compliance and administration. "We knew he had been over there for three years, so we spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what level of competition he was at and that sort of thing. He did many things right."
It wasn't enough to convince the NCAA to give him a break.
The ruling is a major blow to the resurgent Hoosiers who, at 6-0, are off to their best start since 2002-03.
Cromer said school officials got the first ruling Oct. 15. The appeal process continued through the end of last week, and the penalty would have forced Michel to sit out 10 games -- two for each one he played in -- in addition to the one-year ban.
What exactly Michel can do, though, is unclear. He will stay on scholarship, in school, receive academic help and can work out with the coaches. He cannot suit up for the Hoosiers.
So can he practice?
"That's part of what we're still talking to the NCAA about," Cromer said during a hastily called conference call with reporters.
The case was complicated.
He signed an agreement to play club basketball in France, but when he was called up from an amateur team to a top-level club that included professionals, Cromer said the NCAA ruled the agreement became a professional contract even though he was only paid normal and necessary expenses.
The bigger issue became his admission to a French university.
Cromer said Michel's high school and college had the same name, which made it difficult for Indiana's compliance department to determine whether he had actually enrolled in college. Michel then played two seasons at Northern Idaho College, a junior college, before joining the Hoosiers this fall.
Division I athletes are allowed to compete for four seasons during a five-year span. So this would have been Michel's final college season.
The announcement came after Indiana flew to Boston, where the Hoosiers play Wednesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and coach Tom Crean issued a statement through the athletic department.
"We are disappointed by this decision because everyone involved in this process agrees that Guy did not intentionally do anything that would have jeopardized his ability to play here or at any of the number of institutions that also recruited him," Crean said. "We will regroup, assess all our options and do whatever we can for Guy, who has demonstrated to us that he deserves to be part of the IU program."
Indiana appealed based on a new NCAA rule that allows international players, like Michel, to compete with professional teammates while maintaining their amateur status if they only receive money to cover their expenses.
But the Hoosiers didn't win that argument, either.
"We were hoping reasonable changes would have reflected some flexibility in cases like this with relatively minimal participation and the fact that he tried to remain an amateur the whole time," Cromer said. "That was the basis for our appeal."
Michel averaged 7.1 points and 7.3 rebounds last season at Northern Idaho.
The Hoosiers will now need more productivity from three physical 6-9 forwards -- sophomores Bobby Capobianco and Derek Elston and junior Tom Pritchard -- to fill the void left by the 277-pound center.