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Thursday, August 31, 2006
Jerrell Powe Sacks the NCAA

Jerrell Powe, a prized football recruit for the University of Mississippi, has secured an important court victory in his quest to gain NCAA eligibility. Here's the story: Powe, rated as the country's top defensive tackle prospect and a top 25 overall prospect, is a learning disabled student who has played at Wayne County High School in Mississippi and also Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia (coincidentally, the same school where former NBA player Korleone Young, who I often write about, attended). But Powe received some bad news last week, when the NCAA declared him ineligible due to insufficient academics: he had to obtain a 2.50 GPA in "14 core high school classes" and a 17 on his ACT and while Powe scored an 18 on his ACT and finished with a combined high school GPA of 2.54, the NCAA apparently believes that Powe's GPA reflects too many correspondence classes at Brigham Young University, and also "too many irregularities in his high school course work and transcripts." The NCAA also alleges that Powe has repeatedly refused to "clarify" certain questions that it has about his course work.

In fairness to the NCAA, remember the context of its thinking here: it has been harshly criticized in recent months over "diploma mills" that enable high school football prospects to radically improve their GPAs, including by taking un-timed exams that they grade themselves (see our blog's coverage of Florida's infamous "University High School"). Having said that, there is no apparent evidence that Powe has received that style of "schooling" on his way to a 2.54 GPA. But still, the NCAA is probably uniquely sensitive to the topic of academic standards at this time.

But the NCAA may not have the final word. For one, Ole Miss doesn't want to lose one of its top recruits, so it immediately filed an appeal with the NCAA on behalf of Powe.

But Powe isn't waiting for the appeal to be heard. Instead, he has hired a lawyer: Attorney James Carroll (right) of Carroll, Warren & Parker in Jackson, Mississippi. And the move appears to be a good one, as several hours ago, Carroll secured a temporary restraining order requiring that Ole Miss enroll Powe. Here's the story from Robbie Neiswanger and Rusty Hampton in the Clarion Ledger:
Lafayette County Chancery Court Judge Edwin Roberts Jr. said Ole Miss must allow Powe to enroll in school by Friday — the final day students can enroll for the fall semester. Roberts also said in court papers that because Powe has met the NCAA’s minimum requirements for academic eligibility, Powe should be placed on athletic scholarship and be allowed to practice with the team, in accordance with NCAA rules and the binding scholarship papers Powe and the university signed in February.
So what will Ole Miss do: follow the NCAA or follow Judge Roberts? Although the University has no comment (other than "it's an unprecedented situation"), I think the answser is fairly obvious: follow the judge. Not matter how much the NCAA likes to flex it's muscle, it can't expect Ole Miss to pick it over a judge and face contempt of a court order.

**Please See 9/17/2006 Update: Jerrell Powe Drops Lawsuit Against Ole Miss: Where Will He Now Play Football?


There's no doubt that Ole Miss should follow the judges orders, but Powe is a definite question mark when considering the type of athlete they want on their team. I don't know the Ole Miss program to well, but the recruitment of Powe out of high school was more dramatic than an episode of the "Young and the Restless." Powe drug premier college institutions around worse than an older brother drags his younger brother around in a game of backyard football. There are definite character issues that should be taken into account when determining his standing with the football team, despite the 5 star status out of high school.

I feel that despite my negativity towards Powe, his attorney is approaching the situation in the correct way. Ultimately, I believe that with Powe's status, the former #1 defensive lineman in high school football, the Southeastern Conference or Ole Miss will find a way to sneak him under the radar and permit him to join the team and the university.

Anonymous bhbarron1 -- 9/01/2006 12:07 AM  

On the facts you described, it seems Powe has to be admitted. I know there is no easy and short answer for this, but what are the grounds for a decision in this case? Freedom of movement?Antitrust? Is the NCAA (amateur sports regulator?) subject to antitrust reasoning and rules?

Great Blog

Blogger Luis Cassiano Neves -- 9/01/2006 5:41 AM  

Ole Miss was certainly wise to admit Jerrell Powe as a part-time student last week. At the end of the day, Chancellor Roberts clearly ruled that Ole Miss, which had admitted Powe as a student, had to let him attend classes. The NCAA simply said that he could not play football because he failed to meet clearinghouse requirements. Even if Powe pays his own way to attend college, which he will do if he stays in school, the NCAA will drop the proverbial hammer on Ole Miss if Powe suits up for the Rebels this season. Not only is Powe not eligible to receive athletic financial aid because of failing to meet clearinghouse standards, but also he is simply not eligible to play. The NCAA Clearinghouse standards apply to all student-athletes (scholarship or non-scholarship) across all divisions and across all sports. A student-athlete has to be cleared by the clearinghouse in order to play. I doubt the NCAA will change its mind in this case, and Ole Miss should re-evaluate its academic standards for all students, not just student-athletes.

Anonymous Jeffrey R. Mitchell - Redwood City, CA -- 9/07/2006 12:26 AM  

Though it seems one would take the easy way out and follow the orders of Judge Roberts, one must consider the University's track record. The Chancellor of the university will not allow Jerrell to play because if Ole Miss goes over the NCAA's head, the NCAA will further investigate not only the plight of Powe, but also other question marked players on the team. One player is not worth another 4 years of probation. The 90's were plagued with sanctions due to players and off the field workings of greedy alumni.

Anonymous Jack from MS -- 9/07/2006 2:36 AM  

What is the truth? Did Jerrell Powe complete the requirements? People that have dyslexia aren't stupid and are capable of learning in fact their path to learning is completly unique from the average learning able person. This incident may be just what other dyslexic's need. If Jerrell can do it. What a book this kid could write. What a kick in the pants for education. Why did it take so long to diagnos this problem? At least they did do something about it in the Wayne County School system.

Blogger David from Star -- 9/07/2006 1:48 PM  

I know Powe is attending school, but not participating with the footabll team. There was a hearing today to have him back on the team. Not sure of the outcome.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 9/07/2006 3:05 PM  

I believe Ole Miss comes out ahead if the NCAA denies the University's appeal of the NCAA's decision not to qualify Powe as eligible. I am building a career in collegiate athletic administration, and I certainly want what's best for the student-athlete. I'm not sure that Powe will be best served as trying to play football and receive an education at the same time. Powe needs help with his learning disability above anything else. Moreover, as an alumnus of the University of Mississippi School of Law, I want Ole Miss to make intelligent decisions when it comes to collegiate athletics and the student-athletes who wear the Red and Blue. Ole Miss is in the business of educating its students, and I believe athletics is a critical part of education. In this case, Ole Miss exists to benefit Jerrell Powe and not the other way around. But the school's hands will be tied if the NCAA grants Powe eligibility. First, the school will really have no choice but to let Powe play, which means that he'll have to enroll as a full time student. But since the deadline for enrolling as a full time student has passed when Powe has a full slate of classes he will essentially have received an extra benefit because he is a student- athlete. The average John Doe Student won't get similar treatment in the registrar's office. The University may have a built in exception to this rule that applies to all students. Let's hope so. But, in any event, I agree with Jack from MS that Ole Miss must be careful in the event the NCAA changes its mind. NCAA investigators certainly know their way to Oxford.

Anonymous Jeffrey R. Mitchell - Redwood City, CA -- 9/07/2006 3:11 PM  

Sports Law Blog,

Want to draw a lot of attention to your jounarlism and to your blog? Want to do something great for athletics, education, the State of Mississippi and our society in general?

Here's a suggestion:

Travel to Wayne County, take a picture of every teacher that "taught" Mr. Powe grades 1 - 12. Beside the teacher's pictures, type their names, the subjects they taught, and the grades that Mr. Powe received from them. Then publish this on your blog.

Mr. Powe's so-called teachers deserve some credit for their work.

To the extent that Mr. Powe will not reach his full potential and will not become as effective as a citizen of our State that he could have become, Mr. Powe's teachers should be ashamed of themselves.

The presence of a learning disability does not mean an absence of intelligence. With proper diagnosis and proper instruction a student with a LD can still have academic success.

With timely diagnosis and instruction, Mr. Powe may well have been able to enter college and be eligible for football without all of this controversy. Who knows, with the platform of college football to showcase his apparent talent, Mr. Powe may well have obtained gainful employment (in the NFL), earned wages, paid taxes, and all those other things that effective citizens do.

If Mr. Powe does not get these opportunites who does he have to thank? Let's start with his father (apparently absent), his mother (apparently too busy), and his so-called teachers (what's their excuse? apathy?)

These pitiful circumstances cause me to be embarresed for our State, our educational system, and our society. Most of all I am very sad for Mr. Powe. I hope he does eventually reach his full potential, whether that potential is in sports or some other more worthy endeavor.

Perhaps Mr. Powe's most important contribution will be that his circumstances inspire us to start the long process of correcting the problems with sports and education in Mississippi.

Blogger David -- 9/14/2006 2:24 PM  

I must have missed something here . . . if schools or the NCAA set a standard, it does apply equally to everyone.


That, to me, is true equality--not "except for (fill in the blank) because of (fill in the blank) reason[s]".

Or did I miss something in all the debates over ADA, school admissions, who can and can't play sports, etc.?

Melvin H.

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