The short version of Wells’s story goes as follows: The 20-year-old, who started every game as a freshman last season for Xavier and would have been its leading returning scorer this season, was expelled Aug. 3, but a grand jury in Hamilton County, Ohio, decided not to indict Wells on a sexual assault charge. Earlier this week, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said that the expulsion was the result of “something seriously flawed” in the university’s judicial process.
Wells wants to transfer and has been linked to Memphis, Kentucky and, yes, Maryland. Louisville was recently ruled out of the running, as the Cardinals have no free scholarships to bring Wells on board. Louisville assistant coach Kevin Keatts was Wells’s coach at Hargrave Military Academy.
Wells was reportedly on Kentucky’s campus Wednesday, and ESPN’s Dave Telep tweeted that “things are moving quickly” with Wells and the Wildcats. According to multiple reports, Wells is scheduled to visit Maryland this weekend.
Now, as Wells prepares to make his decision — which, according to multiple reports, could come as quickly as next week — let’s take a look at his eligibility.
Questions have surfaced here. Could Wells even enroll in time for school to start? Do add/drop dates matter? And could the NCAA possibly grant him a waiver to play this season, or would he have to sit out the standard one year mandated for transfers? The Terps have a scholarship open, for what it’s worth.
Time to clear some stuff up, courtesy of John Infante, who runs the Bylaw Blog and works as an NCAA expert for Athnet, a recruitment consulting organization. He was formerly a compliance officer at various colleges and universities.
“Well there’s two things bouncing around,” Infante said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Will he enroll in a school? People have looked at drop/add dates, and that’s not really a big deal. When a school has a drop/add date, you can always have the dean or instructors override it to let a kid in classes.
“When you have an athlete who will sit out for a year, as [Wells] will almost certainly have to, if they started after the 12th day of classes for a semester, that semester doesn’t count as one of the two they have to sit out. So a lot of semester schools started last week, so [Wells] is now getting into the second or third week of school. If he misses that date, he won’t be eligible until the middle of next season.”
That rule comes from NCAA Bylaw 14.02.13. The full text is below:
Residence is enrollment in a full-time academic program (as defined by the institution) at a collegiate institution during a regular term of an academic year. A summer term may not be used to satisfy an academic term of residence. Any student-athlete (e.g., qualifier, nonqualifier, transfer student) admitted after the 12th class day may not use that semester or quarter for the purpose of satisfying an academic term or years of residence.
This includes any day class is in session. Because Monday is Labor Day, a national holiday, that buys Wells an extra day according to this rule. Kentucky started classes Aug. 22. Memphis began Aug. 25. Maryland started Wednesday.
Again, the date on which students must register for classes does not matter in this situation. Though Infante said he was unaware of it happening with such a high-profile athlete, overriding is becoming “more common” among universities.
Say, hypothetically, that Wells were to enroll in a school after 12 days of classes had passed. Infante said the NCAA could waive the extra semester of ineligibility brought on by Bylaw 14.02.13 given that Wells was expelled but not charged, so Wells would only have to sit out one year.
“We talked about this 12-day rule, you might see something where the NCAA says you’ve got in classes, the school lets you in classes, maybe we’ll waive that rule so you don’t have to sit out this extra time,” Infante said. “Maybe we can’t get him eligible immediately, but we can keep him from being delayed.”
This, rather than the NCAA allowing Wells to play immediately, is “much more likely to happen” in Infante’s mind, even though there is no precedent. “I don’t think there’s any chance he’ll play right away,” Infante said.
Once classes start, however, a player’s scholarship counts for the whole year, per NCAA bylaw 15.5.1(a). This means that, even if a player were willing to give up his scholarship for the team’s benefit, he would “become a counter” against the team’s scholarship total the day classes begin.
Of course, there’s another wrinkle to a situation that already has plenty: If Wells decides soon, how quickly can the paperwork get filed?
“It’s really a question of how ready he is,” Infante said. “Does he have all his transcripts ready? Will he be able to sit down there and fill everything out? An admissions office that works well with athletics office is going to do him a big favor here. Of course, you first have to cross the T’s and dot the I’s, get him enrolled and actually admitted to the school.”