Unless Westbrook goes public, NCAA can hide in privacy

Here is what I've learned: Public shaming is the only way to shame the shameless.

And in the batting order of shamelessness, the NCAA hits cleanup.

Hence, unless specifics surface about the NCAA's alleged callousness toward Evina Westbrook, the former Tennessee women's basketball player seeking a waiver to grant her immediate eligibility to play at UConn, the NCAA gets to hide behind its esoteric canons.

We begin here: NCAA rules say that for a given player to earn a waiver, schools must show a "specific, extraordinary circumstance" out of their control to compel the transfer. The NCAA committee that denied the waiver last week knows the specifics of Westbrook's case. So does UConn and Tennessee. But the public does not because of privacy issues to which Westbrook and her family, otherwise known as FERPA (Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act), are afforded.

Yet I believe that the best way for the Westbrook family to pressure the NCAA into reconsidering is to make the details of events at Tennessee public, painful as they may be. Public scrutiny would lead to potential public shaming of the NCAA and its committee who, again, get to use privacy as a public shield.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma spoke publicly, if vaguely, about Westbrook's situation at Tennessee, saying, "if one of my players went through what Evina went through, I think there would be an investigation here."

Straight up: I despise the NCAA and the way it morphs into this nameless, faceless bureaucracy, despite what ought to be inherent transparency tethered to this: The NCAA is nothing more than a compilation of its member institutions. Sadly, it's a freak show of educators practicing revolving hypocrisy toward other educators.

So, while I get that the NCAA is awash in fraudulence — and because of it a very easy target — I'm not so comfortable here drilling the committee that denied Westbrook's waiver.


Do I believe Auriemma's stance that something serious happened? I do. But it's not enough. Specific details of this need to come out so the media — the real media — can expose the committee members by name and make them answer real questions.

I get this isn't easy. I am a parent, too. There's no joy in your kid's painful experiences making the front page. But there may be no other recourse here than having the courage to be vulnerable in pursuit of the truth.

UConn has asked Tennessee athletic director Philip Fulmer to support Westbrook's waiver in the same spirit as Fulmer's public outcry over the weekend in support of men's basketball player Uros Plavsic, to whom the NCAA also denied a waiver for immediately eligibility to play at Tennessee.

Fulmer's incredulousness toward his specific issue with the NCAA illustrated dizzying levels of tone deafness, given his Sgt. Schultz act with Westbrook. I'm not sure Fulmer's opinion carries much weight with the NCAA. Or should.

Which brings us back to the Westbrook family. Is releasing details of her time at Tennessee worth the potential of NCAA reversal and immediate eligibility at UConn? Only they can answer that. But short of anything else, the NCAA and its committee can hide behind privacy and gets to walk between the raindrops.

It really doesn't need to be this difficult. But it's the National Corrupt Athletic Association, remember. The people who spend more time employing security personnel to monitor whether the beverages people drink courtside are in NCAA-approved cups than tending to a real-life situation, such as Westbrook's.

Unless this particular NCAA committee suddenly contracts an acute case of decency, there's no reason to grant UConn's appeal and reinstate Westbrook. This is up to Westbrook to make her details at Tennessee public, thus putting the onus on the NCAA to answer specific questions. If what happened to her is as serious as Auriemma suggests, the NCAA will either have no choice but to grant her immediate eligibility or be subject to public shaming.

And nobody likes that. Nobody. Even the most shamelessly shameless try to appear fair minded in public.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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