NORMAN, Okla. -- The NCAA said Thursday it has granted a
waiver for the University of Oklahoma to set up a fund to assist
with funeral expenses for the family of a slain football recruit.
Herman Mitchell, a 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker, verbally
committed in June to play for the Sooners, but the 17-year-old from
Westfield High School in Houston was shot to death Friday after
getting into a fight at an apartment complex.
Soon after, Oklahoma booster and Houston resident Adam Fineberg
began raising money for Mitchell's family to help defray the
player's funeral costs. Fineberg had raised about $4,500 before
university compliance officials told him his actions violated NCAA
rules. He has since refunded the money.
Oklahoma officials said they'd been told Tuesday by the NCAA
that the money raised by Fineberg would constitute illegal
financial assistance under NCAA rules, because Mitchell's brother
is a sophomore football player at Westfield and Fineberg is
considered to be an Oklahoma booster.
Fineberg said his only intention was to help Mitchell's mother
to pay for the funeral. Oklahoma compliance officials requested the
waiver on Wednesday.
"We're happy with their decision and now we have we have a
little bit of work to do, to make sure we do this in accordance
with NCAA rules and with the laws of Oklahoma," Oklahoma athletic
department spokesman Kenny Mossman said.
Under the waiver, granted by the NCAA's membership services
staff, any funds raised by Fineberg can be transferred to the
university to help pay for funeral expenses.
The waiver has three conditions -- that the university take
control of the fundraising and any funds already donated to
Fineberg; that the university use the funds to directly cover the
costs of the funeral and memorial services, with no money going
directly to the family; and that any excess funds be donated to a
Houston-area nonprofit organization to be chosen by the university.
"This is a tragic circumstance, and we are glad we were able to
work quickly with OU to assist this family in their time of need,"
said Kevin Lennon, the NCAA vice president for membership services.
Lennon said NCAA bylaws cannot take into account the unique
circumstances of every situation.
"This is a case where our waiver process worked exactly as it
is intended -- to collaborate with a member institution to address
an individual situation," he said.