Four months ago, the NCAA begrudgingly stepped aside after name, image, and likeness (NIL) legislation was enacted – finally allowing college athletes to make money off the things that they were born with. But, the billion-dollar “nonprofit” institution that’s made its money off the backs of unpaid athletes refused to go away quietly — they had to throw one final uppercut after the bell.
Enter Illinois center Kofi Cockburn.
The Big Ten’s Preseason Player of the Year was suspended three games by the NCAA in yet another one of those, “the punishment doesn’t fit the crime” scenarios that happen far too often.
Cockburn sold “institutionally issued apparel and memorabilia” in June — just days before NIL went into effect on July 1.
He didn’t hit a woman, cheat on a test, or steal anything. He simply jumped the gun and sold things too early, and now he has to miss games against Jackson State, Arkansas State, and Marquette – along with donating all the money he made by giving it to charity.
“We are disappointed with the three-game suspension, because there were unprecedented factors and altered timelines related to his decision to ultimately withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school,” said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. Cockburn had tested the NBA Draft waters and even considered transferring, but ultimately decided to return to Champaign.
“Once Kofi had a full understanding of where he stood regarding the draft, he made an educated decision to return to school, work toward his degree, and continue improving his game. That said, we understand and respect the NCAA’s decision in this matter, and we will move forward accordingly. As always, Kofi’s attitude and outlook remain upbeat and positive. He is focused on helping his teammates prepare for the season, and we can’t wait to have him rejoin us on the court.”
This is stupid and unnecessary.
Ironically, the NCAA’s hypocrisy was put on full display as their ruling came just days after Gonzaga coach Mark Few pled guilty to his DUI charge and paid a $1,000 fine to stay out of jail.
Guess how many games the school suspended Few for?
Three — the team’s “Midnight Madness” event, two exhibition games, and their season opener. While Few’s suspension came from the school, not the NCAA, in what world does it make sense that a DUI from a coach that’s leading the No. 1 ranked team in the country carries the same punishment as a player selling some clothes within the same sport?
And to make things worse, Few’s suspension was a joke and should have been longer after TMZ released the footage of his arrest where he’s refusing to do field sobriety tests and grabs at his phone multiple times although officers told him to put it away.
But, this is college sports where players are always held to a higher standard than the coaches. So, the next time your favorite school is recruiting a top player and they wind up choosing a different option besides playing college basketball — despite the new NIL rules — remember how the NCAA did Kofi Cockburn, and you’ll have your answer.