Trying to understand how the NCAA administers its form of justice is an exercise somewhere between frustration and confusion.
John Wall, from Word of God Academy in North Carolina, is the star freshman point guard for Kentucky. He is very likely to be the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft.
Deniz Kilicli, from Turkey, is a freshman big man for West Virginia. He is very likely unknown to all but the most serious hoopheads. What do they have in common? Each was caught in the NCAA justice system.
The NCAA ruled that Wall had to repay $787.58 that his former AAU coach and onetime sports agent, Brian Clifton, gave him in the form of what the NCAA calls an "an improper benefit." College players, of course, can't take anything of value from agents.
Wall also could not play in one exhibition game and the first regular-season game as part of his punishment. This was not a draconian result. Some might even argue that it was rational, considering that Wall might not have known he was doing anything against the rules. (Now, this whole agent thing is another story entirely, but that is about greed, not about what is good for college players.)
Two seasons ago, in Turkey, Kilicli played on a team that included one player who was getting paid. Kilicli was not getting paid. One of his teammates was. Kilicli had no way of knowing that. He also had no way of knowing that that was a violation of the NCAA's amateurism rules or that he would ever be playing for a school in the NCAA.
The NCAA suspended Kilicli for 20 games.
Does this make any sense? Does this punishment fit this "crime," especially when Wall, who actually took something of value, was suspended for one real game?
If you ask somebody at the NCAA about this, you get some bureaucratic legalese that probably makes sense at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, but makes no sense to those living in the real world.
By the way, Kilicli can practice with the team and will be eligible to play Feb. 3 against Pittsburgh. And he will play. He has been practicing. The WVU coaches love him and think he can help the team win the school's first national championship.
Maybe it could be WVU vs. UK in Indy on the first Monday in April for the NCAA championship.
Which brings me back to my larger point, articulated in this space a few weeks ago. Why even try to police this? Just let the cheaters keep on cheating and have those schools that want to win so badly they will take any risk go off into a large cartel (sort of like the BCS).
AND IT IS ONLY DECEMBER: Usually, coaches don't reach the breaking point until February. So what was up with the bizarre scene on the CBS College Sports Network at the end of the Penn-Navy game Friday night?
With 17 seconds left and Navy leading by five, Middies star Chris Harris fouled out. After a short timeout, which a team gets when a player fouls out, Penn's Jack Eggleston went to the foul line. Navy coach Billy Lange, the former Villanova assistant, went berserk, screaming down the sideline toward the Penn bench that they put the wrong shooter on the line.
It got very heated for a few moments. The officials checked the replay. It was, in fact, Eggleston who got fouled. He promptly missed both free throws. Navy won the game. Lange apologized for his outburst after the game.
DON'T MISS THESE: It's Connecticut against Kentucky in Wednesday night's Big East/SEC Invitational at Madison Square Garden. Good friends Jim Calhoun and John Calipari on the sideline. Is New York City big enough for both egos?
And two of the early season's most impressive teams, Syracuse and Florida, play Thursday in Tampa.
SCARY AND SAD: The fall Ohio State's Evan Turner took Saturday was frightening. He tried to hold on to the rim after going in for a dunk that missed. He lost his grip and fell on his back.
I thought he was headed for national player of the year. Now, he will be out eight weeks with two fractured vertebra in his back. In a sport with lots of good people, Turner is one of the best.