By now you know the news. The NCAA, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that now, 18 days before the 2015-16 season starts, to conduct an investigation into the eligibility of Caleb Swanigan. Now, there is a lot of speculation about what is going on, but here is what we know:
- The report today came from Jason King, a senior writer at Bleacher Report. King is the same writer that wrote the piece last week on his upbringing and adoption by Roosevelt Barnes.
- According to King, the issue concerns "the relationship between Swanigan and Roosevelt Barnes, a Purdue alum who adopted Swanigan in May of 2011, prior to his eighth-grade year."
- Purdue is aware of the situation and is "working through the process" according to coach Painter.
- Swanigan needs to be cleared before playing at all, and this includes scrimmages such as the secret scrimmage with Dayton this Sunday or next week's exhibition with Northwestern Ohio.
- The first three games against North Carolina A&T, Vermont, and Incarnate Word are games Purdue should be able to win quite easily without Swanigan, so if he has to miss some games that count there is not a significant challenge until November 21 vs. Old Dominion. Still, it would be nice to have some tune up games to work him into the lineup.
- There is no timetable on how long this investigation could take.
- King, who wrote both stories, pretty much thinks this is bullshit:
If not for Roosevelt Barnes, Caleb Swanigan would likely 400 pounds w/ no high school diploma & still living in a homeless shelter. Or dead.— Jason King (@JasonKingBR) October 26, 2015
Now, I can provide at least a small amount of background here. From August 2007 until March 2008 I worked as a temp in the NCAA eligibility center. My job was to basically answer phones, look information, and work with student athletes and schools to get transcripts, test scores, etc. to get kids initially eligible. I got to see a bunch of different eligibility cases come through. Some took a small amount of time, others took a little longer. During this time I remember specifically working on the case of two players from Purdue where I actually took a call from the compliance department and worked within the NCAA to get them the info they needed.
The first was offensive guard Ken Plue. There was a question regarding his transcript from his prep school and a class to get him eligible. We got the info we needed, the class was added, and boom, he was eligible. It took a few minutes to make sure the right info was in the right place, but that was it.
The second was the case referenced in the Journal & Courier article here concerning junior college transfer Nemanja Calasan. When I took this call Chally was a JuCo transfer, so his eligibility was a question of amateurism. Apparently, in his native Bosnia, he had sat the bench for a pro or semi pro team as a teenager and it needed to be investigated. If I remember correctly (and THIS IS NOT GOSPEL, as I am trying to remember details eight years after the fact), they said since he had sat on the bench (but had not played) for three games he had to sit for an exhibition and the first two games of the 2007-08 season. Since he was an international player, stuff like this is common, and amateurism issues similar to that happen quite a bit for the international kids.
Now, this is obviously different. What is frustrating is that none of this was a secret. It is not like they just found out Swanigan was adopted by Barnes or that Barnes is an agent. This was all well known during his entire recruitment process even before Swanigan reclassified for 2015. It seems likely there is an issue being questioned that was not publicly known. Swanigan was adopted by Barnes more than four years ago and dropped more than 100 pounds because he was taken in by a loving family. Yes, Barnes is a licensed sports agent, but he has been Swanigan's legal guardian for more than four years through a legal adoption. He is basically the kid's dad. Also, Swanigan has done the right thing. He worked extra so he could graduate high school a year early. We're not talking about some diploma mill school, either. Homestead High School is one of the better high schools in all of Indiana and definitely one of the best in the Fort Wayne area.
On the surface this looks like a really bad move by the NCAA, but rules are rules, and if there needs to be a little extra vetting, than by all means, vet away. Hopefully it is nothing and in less than a week we can all laugh about it. Another nice thing about working at the NCAA is knowing a little how things get done. When I was there, if a school wanted a kid to be eligible they are going to bug the shit out of the NCAA and work to get them everything they need and have all the T's crossed and I's dotted. Purdue is going to work with them, probably every day, to get this done as soon as is humanly possible. I remember there was one case where a baseball program out in California was working to get a player eligible as the season approached in February. They were calling every day and sometimes multiple times per day to try and get this kid eligible because it was a very complex case. The people that work at the Eligibility Center here in Indianapolis do not want to have a kid sit unless something major has happened, so I know they are working to get him cleared in time to start the season.
So, let's not panic yet. Let's allow this to run its course and we still have a few weeks before the first game even. All parties involved want to see this thing come to a positive conclusion, and hopefully the NCAA is not going to punish a kid because someone legitimately wanted to give him a chance at a decent life he otherwise would not have had.