Former Xavier basketball player Dezmine Wells was on the University of Kentucky's campus again Thursday, but he probably won't be playing for the Wildcats anytime soon.
Even if Wells commits to UK he would be an unlikely candidate for immediate eligibility, according to a former compliance officer who has written extensively about NCAA eligibility issues.
John Infante, who runs the NCAA's Bylaw Blog, told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that Wells' case did not meet the typical parameters the NCAA uses to grant immediate eligibility.
"Those waivers need to be a hardship outside of the athlete's control. And that's going to be a tough sell since he was expelled from school," Infante said. "That's probably not going to be successful. I don't think that's in the cards."
Wells was expelled from Xavier last week after a sexual assault investigation, but the Hamilton County prosecutor announced Tuesday that Wells would not be charged with any crimes.
Prosecutor Joe Deters also released a statement asking Xavier officials to revisit the ruling against Wells. The university said its decision was final.
Wells visited UK's campus Wednesday and Thursday. He was scheduled to fly to Memphis on Thursday night and visit that campus Friday. He could also take a trip to Maryland before making a decision, which should come no later than early next week.
Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State and Loyola Marymount, said the NCAA would be unlikely to overrule a member institution when it comes to matters of discipline.
In fact, the NCAA already has a rule in place that would seemingly apply to Wells' situation. NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199 states, "A student who transfers to any NCAA institution from a collegiate institution while the student is disqualified or suspended from the previous institution for disciplinary reasons (as opposed to academic reasons) must complete one calendar year of residence at the certifying institution."
To grant Wells immediate eligibility, the NCAA would basically have to rule that Xavier University was wrong in its original decision. Infante says that's an unlikely scenario.
"That would be the NCAA sort of telling Xavier that he never should have been expelled in the first place, and that's going to be tough for the NCAA to be able to do," he said.
But UK or whatever school lands Wells still has the option of applying for immediate eligibility.
Infante said that school would prepare a waiver, likely with the argument that Wells was kicked out of school but never actually charged with anything. The school would then send its paperwork to the NCAA, which typically would make a ruling within three weeks.
The initial waiver would be considered by staff members at the NCAA's national office in Indianapolis. Any appeal would be heard by a committee of officials who work on college campuses.
Infante said Wells' new school would likely reach out to Xavier in its attempt to secure his immediate eligibility. He said that could include a letter of support from Xavier's athletics director and/or head of compliance.
But even with those materials, Wells wouldn't have a very good chance of playing this season.
"It would certainly be helpful if Xavier basically said, 'Yeah, we support him playing immediately somewhere, but we have to stand by our decision that he's not able to continue as a student here.' Even with that, it's still very much a long shot," Infante said.
Infante said Wells would be permitted to practice immediately upon enrolling at his new school, even if that school applies for a waiver.
Wells started 32 games and averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds during his freshman season at Xavier. The Raleigh, N.C., native was a four-star recruit coming out of high school. He was also a teammate of former UK point guard John Wall.
Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels said Wells would be a big addition to UK this year or next. The Cats are considered favorites to land top-five recruits Andrew Wiggins, a small forward who is expected to reclassify, and Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the top two guards in the class. Daniels said Wells, a 6-foot-5 small forward, could play in the same lineup with that trio.
"Dez Wells, he is a tough dude. He's going to be hard to keep off the floor," Daniels said. "You can get creative. The way they play, they can put as many wings on the floor as they possibly can."