SEC commissioner: Wall's eligibility an issue

Could miss at least three games

October 23, 2009 

University of Kentucky freshman point guard John Wall could face an NCAA suspension after questions arose regarding his amateur status, ESPN.com reported Thursday.

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive confirmed to ESPN.com that Wall and Mississippi State's top freshman, Renardo Sidney, both face eligibility issues.

Slive refused to speak with a Herald-Leader reporter when asked about the ESPN.com article during Thursday's SEC Media Day at Birmingham, Ala.

UK released a statement Thursday night saying it would not comment on Wall's status.

"We will continue to respect the privacy of all our student-athletes in regards to personal information," the statement said. "All University of Kentucky student-athletes are considered eligible unless it is noted otherwise."

The questions about Wall's eligibility surround his former AAU coach, Brian Clifton, who reportedly was a certified agent for a period of time when he was also Wall's coach.

Sidney's eligibility has been a point of contention for months amid allegations his family received financial favors.

"Those are amateur issues that arose prior to their coming to our schools," Slive said of Sidney and Wall. "Those are strictly amateurism issues. As we told our people, somebody needs to determine if they are eligible."

Slive also said in the ESPN.com article, written by Dana O'Neil and Pat Forde, that he believes Wall and Sidney are the only SEC freshmen with unresolved eligibility issues.

According to the report, Wall and Sidney are both eligible to practice but are not allowed to compete in games until their amateurism issues are cleared up, and any case involving such issues would be investigated by the NCAA Eligibility Center.

The NCAA does not comment specifically about individual cases and did not confirm to ESPN.com whether it was investigating Wall or Sidney.

However, Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury said during his SEC Media Day appearance that he was awaiting a ruling from the NCAA concerning Sidney.

"There's nothing new," Stansbury said, "When has the NCAA had any timetable?"

According to ESPN.com, Wall's former AAU coach was a certified agent with FIBA, basketball's international governing body, for nearly a year. "Under NCAA rule, that equates to Wall accepting illegal benefits from an agent," the article said. "Consequently Wall could have to repay any and all expenses Clifton footed during that period before he can play with Kentucky."

As punishment, the NCAA could withhold an athlete from at least 10 percent of a team's games, the story said. That would amount to about three games.

"There can be mitigating circumstances, but the rule of thumb would be they'd have to pay back the money," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn told ESPN.com, while not commenting on Wall's particular case. "And if it was a significant amount they could potentially be withheld from games. The line in the sand is if an agent or whatever they want to call themselves was marketing an individual student-athlete or prospective student-athlete based on their athletic abilities. If so, there are potential issues."

UK was involved in a previous brush with amateurism rules in 2005. Center Randolph Morris' eligibility came into question after his failed attempt to enter the NBA Draft, during which he associated with a sports agency. Morris was suspended for 14 games.

Slive told ESPN.com the issues involving Wall and Sidney were not about cheating.

"This is a very different thing than what I've been talking about for eight years," Slive said, referring to the SEC's outlaw image in terms of rule-breaking. "The culture is different now."

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