If you haven’t yet heard about the NCAA’s unfortunate stance on Air Force hockey player Kevin Wright, please check the two posts below and this link to a story I wrote that appeared on the front page of today’s Gazette.
If you have heard about Wright’s situation, here’s one more tidbit that will frustrate you even further:
Air Force didn’t find out that Wright had inadvertently started his five-year clock until the fall of his freshman year when he was attending a compliance meeting. Linda Huggler, who handles compliance issues at Air Force, asked the incoming hockey players if they’d taken any classes prior to coming to Air Force. Most raised their hands. She then asked how many hours they all took, and when Wright told Huggler his total, she was shocked.
So was Wright. He had no idea that being a full-time student would start his eligibility clock, which proves he had no intent to deceive or commit wrongdoing.
And consider this: Had Wright never mentioned to the Air Force powers-that-be that he’d attended that community college full-time for a year, the NCAA never would have figured out that he’d inadvertently started his five-year clock. Think about it. Would the NCAA waste its time tracking down the transcripts of a role player on a hockey team? Especially transcripts from some obscure community college? No way.
So in addition to being punished, ostensibly, for being too diligent when it comes to academics, Wright is being punished for being honest.
One question you might have is how did Air Force not already know Wright had started his clock?
I asked Air Force coach Frank Serratore this. Once the Falcons started recruiting Wright, he was playing juniors and only taking classes on a part-time basis. But Wright’s high school grades and ACT scores were so exemplary that his community college grades were unneccessary in the application process. So Air Force never requested them. (Serratore said he encourages players who might be on the bubble as far as being accepted at Air Force to take part-time classes while playing junior hockey. By doing so they show the admissions board that they are serious about education. It’s one more thing that can help them gain admittance.)
Wright, however, was a slam dunk for admittance. He didn’t need to show what work he’d done during juniors. So the first the academy found out about his full-time status (three years before coming to the academy) was in that meeting.
Academy officials then brought the matter to the attention of the NCAA. It was done, I’m sure, to keep things above board and be honest about an honest mistake. But at the same time, everyone associated with Wright and the Air Force program was convinced the NCAA would come back with a favorable ruling.
No such luck.