NCAA rules against Ole Miss recruit Powe for 3rd time

Updated: September 6, 2007, 9:57 PM ET
Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. -- Jerrell Powe was denied in his quest to play at Mississippi for the third time Thursday when the NCAA rejected the appeals of the defensive lineman and the school.

The learning-disabled prized recruit has spent more than two years seeking permission from the NCAA to start his college career. Officials have ruled Powe, 20, will not be able to play football until 2008, and only then if he completes a year of college at Ole Miss.

"Based on his academic history and even after receiving all the accommodations and protections available to individuals with disabilities, Mr. Powe has not demonstrated that he can succeed academically during his first year of collegiate enrollment while also practicing and competing in athletics," an NCAA statement said.

The NCAA granted Powe a partial initial eligibility waiver last week and ruled that Powe could attend Ole Miss and receive athletic financial aid, but not play football. He is currently enrolled.

NCAA officials also invalidated all of Powe's coursework over the previous year because they were concerned that Powe received too much help as he attempted to qualify.

Powe and Ole Miss appealed both decisions to separate NCAA subcommittees. Those appeal bodies met Thursday and quickly handed down decisions.

Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone said the university is disappointed in the NCAA's decision, but will press on.

While the NCAA Student Records Review Committee decision is final, the school will appeal the decision of the NCAA Initial Eligibility Waiver Learning Disability Subcommittee's decision to the Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet.

Powe did not immediately respond to an interview request made through his attorney.

Coach Ed Orgeron, who was not available after practice, addressed the decision on his Thursday radio show.

"I know Jerrell has a lot of fight in him," Orgeron said. "Eventually Jerrell is going to reach his goal of playing for Ole Miss, and look out when he does."

Powe's attorney, Don Jackson, said he will talk over options with a family representative Thursday night. In the past, he has said the next step will be to sue the NCAA.

"Sometimes you can feel comfortable with a loss because you can understand the rationale of the people who made the decision," Jackson said. "In this one I don't think there's any real comfort here because this decision is objectively wrong based on the facts."

The NCAA's statement said that both appeals subcommittees shared staff concerns about the speed with which Powe completed his coursework over the last year.

Powe initially signed with Ole Miss in 2005, but had not completed the necessary 14 core courses for eligibility. He signed with Ole Miss in 2006 after attending a prep school and taking correspondence courses, but was again denied eligibility. The NCAA said at the time that Powe could either return to high school or go to a junior college.

The Wayne County High School Parade All-American returned to Waynesboro to retake courses, attended a Pennsylvania prep school and took correspondence courses over the last year.

Last month the NCAA allowed him to practice for 14 days while it sorted out his status, then again denied his quest to play for the Rebels.

"In order to grant the waiver and appeal, the staff and membership committees were asked to accept that an individual who previously completed just seven core courses out of a required 14 in his first five years of high school had subsequently completed 14.5 core courses at three different schools concurrently over a four-month period," officials said. "The average number of courses a student completes in a year is four."

Jackson said that attitude shows the NCAA has an "institutional belief" that Powe and other prospective black student-athletes can't improve themselves academically after slow starts in high school. With something as important as a college scholarship on the line, he said it should come as no surprise they take their academics more seriously.

"Why is it such a leap to believe that a young person like that can improve academically?" Jackson asked. "There's this belief that if you're going to make it, you have to cut corners to make it."

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said there is precedent for the decision and that Powe's case -- and that of other prospective black student-athletes -- is not unique.

The decision "allows him to go to school on full scholarship and focus on his academics first," Osburn said. "And that is a focus that we ask all student-athletes to have -- to be a student first and an athlete second."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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