Illinois Basketball: The Ahmad Starks Waiver Situation: Why The NCAA is Confusing

We are all familiar with the story of Ahmad Starks.  Starks was a standout from Oregon State who averaged over ten points a game.  Add to that a very nice three point field goal percentage of just under 40%, and you have a guy who would have been very beneficial to John Groce’s Fighting Illini squad this coming season.  Instead, you will see Starks simply on the bench, as his request for a hardship waiver was denied by the NCAA.

Starks left Oregon State after this past season in order to be closer to his ailing grandmother, who resides in Chicago.  Starks is, as best as I can tell, close to his family and cares deeply about his grandmother.  This was not an effort to change schools to be on a team that is going places in the very near future.  It was an attempt to be closer to his family incase the unspeakable happened.

NCAA transfer rules for hardship waivers states that the school must be within 100 miles of the reason for the hardship waiver request.  Using Google Maps, if you map the distance from the University of Illinois campus in Champaign to Starks high school in Chicago (because it is not known the address of his ailing grandmother), you get a total result of right around 120 miles.  The NCAA thus denied the waiver, citing the distance from the family member was greater than 100 miles.  Had Starks transferred to University of Illinois-Chicago, he would have been fine.  Depaul would have been permissible as well.  However, that extra twenty miles, or a fifteen minute drive on the interstate, cost Starks the ability to play college basketball this year for the Illini.

Then you have a situation regarding UCLA, Georgetown, and center Josh Smith.  Smith played in parts of three seasons with UCLA, with the 2012-2013 season featuring Smith in six games.  The NCAA ruled that he was able to start playing immediately for Georgetown, yet more than that, he was given an extra year of eligibility to play, meaning those six games he played in 2012-2013 didn’t really count.

Compare that situation to Old Dominion’s Donte Hill.  Old Dominion had put in a request for an extra year of eligibility for Hill, yet they were denied.  The reason?  Hill played in a scrimmage his sophomore year at Clemson for a grand total of eight minutes.  Eight minutes and that has cost him a full year.  Six games for Smith and he is good to go for another season.

How about Nathan Harries?  The Colgate freshman lost a year of eligibility for playing in three church league basketball games after getting back from a two year missions trip.  According to, these games featured players mainly in their 30’s all the way up to their 50’s.  One guy had never even played basketball before.  Harries can not play this year for Colgate, and will have to sit out for playing in a few church league basketball games.

When you look at the Starks situation compared to the Smith situation and others, you can not help but be dumbfounded by what is taking place.  For starters, Smith did not transfer from UCLA to be closer to an ailing family member, as he is from Kent, Washington, not Washington, D.C.  He transferred to Georgetown because that was simply a better team and there was more potential there to elongate ones season into the NCAA Tournament.

Starks was denied a hardship waiver for twenty miles, while Smith was given immediate eligibility AND an extra year to play college ball.  This has got to be one of the most confusing cases in the transfer acceptance and denials ever.  The cases of Harries and Hill are just as confusing.

The NCAA has been and probably always will be a governing body that plays more politics than Washington, D.C.  They deem who they want and deny who they want of their eligibility.  This has got to change, and change quickly, because they way these decisions are made simply has zero credibility, and there is no reasoning to their choices.


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