A tale of 2 linemen: 'Blind Side' subject, another Ole Miss player get opposite results from BYU Independent Study courses

Published: Saturday, June 5 2010 10:00 p.m. MDT

The simple explanation for why the NCAA treated two cases that were seemingly similar with such striking disparity goes a long way toward giving context to the recent announcement by the NCAA of its decision to no longer allow BYU Independent Study classes taken by prep athletes to count toward athletic eligibility at Division I schools.

According to NCAA spokesman Chuck Wynne, the NCAA wants to ensure that prospective student-athletes are prepared for a college-level curriculum.

"What we don't want is somebody showing up on campus and not being able to do that classroom work," Wynne said Friday.

Based on that philosophical foundation, the NCAA announced May 25 a decision effective Aug. 1 to decertify BYU Independent Study nontraditional secondary education courses. The prescription for regaining certification is twofold: The BYU courses must require instructors to initiate contact with students (currently instructor-student interaction is available but solely at the discretion of the student), and minimum time frames for course completion need to be established.

The implied message is simple: The NCAA believes those two regulations will discourage abuse of BYU Independent Study credits for the purpose of establishing academic eligibility for college athletics.

"Our membership decided to find a way to make sure that prospective student-athletes who take these courses actually do the work and learn what they're supposed to learn from the courses so that they're prepared for the classroom," Wynne said. "That's what this is all about."

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the university is already taking steps to achieve compliance.

"We've always had a good working relationship with the NCAA," Jenkins said. "I know we've been in communication with them since the decision, and we'll be looking at how we can be in compliance, looking at some of the standards that have been implicated."

Allen Wallace, national college football recruiting expert and publisher of SuperPrep magazine, believes the reason Powe had to wait three years to play college football is because he simply wasn't prepared for the rigors of the college classroom.

"I admire the NCAA in sticking to its guns," Wallace said. "Obviously, there were suspicions all along the way that the system was being abused to accommodate Powe. He's paid a price, which I wouldn't say is unfair, because now it looks like he'll get a degree and he'll get to the NFL."

Mock drafts on CBSSports.com do, indeed, project Powe going anywhere between seventh and 13th overall in the 2011 NFL draft, which would make him a millionaire many times over.

History suggests the NCAA made the right decision in granting Oher's eligibility but initially denying Powe his. By 2006, Oher was on the dean's list at Ole Miss; he eventually graduated in four years with a degree in criminal justice. Powe, meanwhile, failed to make the grade at both Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy and Penn Foster (Pa.) Career School.

But once Powe was ready, he received the green light from the NCAA and has maintained his eligibility since.

"I know that Michael Oher ended up being on the dean's list, so he obviously can do the work," Wynne said. "And I know that Jerrell Powe, once he proved to us he could do the work, he's fine, and he's still playing for Mississippi."

e-mail: jaskar@desnews.com

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