clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Indiana’s Bryant Fitzgerald ruled ineligible for 2017 due to university compliance mistake

New, 11 comments

The NCAA could’ve fixed it. They didn’t. Now bad advice by an Indiana compliance staffer will cost one of Indiana’s star freshman his 2017 season.

In his short Indiana career, Bryant Fitzgerald was already making an impact on the football field in Bloomington. Even among a secondary that should be among the conference’s best and most experienced, the standout freshman from Avon had made a name for himself at the safety or husky position through Tom Allen’s early practices.

According to an Indiana Athletics press release today, Fitzgerald has been deemed an academic non-qualifier will be ineligible for the 2017 season. All because of what seems to be a critical bit of poor advising by Indiana’s compliance staff.

“Bryant Fitzgerald is a smart, outstanding young man who is academically prepared and capable of being very successful at IU,” said Indiana athletic director Fred Glass. “His ineligibility is not his fault. It is ours. On behalf of myself and everyone associated with IU Athletics, I personally apologize to Bryant and his family for our mistake. While it was an isolated and unintended one, it is no less devastating to Bryant, and I could not feel worse about it. The process leading to the mistake has been fixed and redundancies added, and we are very confident nothing like this will ever happen again.”

In-house compliance departments at colleges often help signed recruit navigate the path to initial academic clearance on the NCAA’s terms. That often includes some mix and sliding scale of test scores, core classes taken, and grades earned. It’s difficult to prognosticate on what exactly was the issue surrounding Fitzgerald’s clearance, but it’s perhaps possible he was told he had the proper number of core courses -- and didn’t. With the broad tools and resources available to modern compliance departments, it’s fair to wonder how in the hell this happened at a Big Ten university.

Still, it was an opportunity the NCAA could’ve fixed. Since the mistake wasn’t made by the student athlete and it’s likely he received some sort of improper guidance from a member institution, the NCAA could’ve granted a waiver of the organization’s arbitrary qualification criteria based on the school’s mistake.

Shocker: They did not! Glass, though the athletic department still retains heavy blame for the mistake as he admits, put the organization on blast.

I am very disappointed in the NCAA for not granting our waiver request nor our appeal. Bryant should not have to bear the brunt of our mistake, and the NCAA could have, and should have, remedied that in the interest of this student’s well-being, who is in this situation though absolutely no fault of his own.”

Fitzgerald was considered to be one of the most talented members of the upcoming freshman class, and now without him, Tom Allen will be left without an expected member of the secondary rotation throughout the 2017 season.

The full release can be seen here:

The NCAA Eligibility Center has advised Indiana University that true freshman football player Bryant Fitzgerald has been ruled a final non-qualifier and is not eligible to play or practice for the 2017 season. He will be allowed to maintain his full scholarship and receive all other student-athlete support. Fitzgerald’s ineligibility was caused by a mistake by the Office of Compliance Services of the Indiana University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, which inaccurately advised him regarding his eligibility requirements. Had that mistake not occurred, Fitzgerald would have had ample time and opportunity to establish his eligibility. This was a mistake by the Department, not Fitzgerald and not the football program. On Aug. 3, 2017, the Department filed a waiver request with the NCAA to restore Fitzgerald’s eligibility status. That request was denied on Aug. 14, 2017. On Aug. 14, 2017, the Department filed an appeal of the denial of the waiver request to the Eligibility Center. That appeal was denied on Aug. 18, 2017.

“Bryant Fitzgerald is a smart, outstanding young man who is academically prepared and capable of being very successful at IU,” said IU Vice President and Director of Athletics Fred Glass. “His ineligibility is not his fault. It is ours. On behalf of myself and everyone associated with IU Athletics, I personally apologize to Bryant and his family for our mistake. While it was an isolated and unintended one, it is no less devastating to Bryant, and I could not feel worse about it. The process leading to the mistake has been fixed and redundancies added, and we are very confident nothing like this will ever happen again. I am very disappointed in the NCAA for not granting our waiver request nor our appeal. Bryant should not have to bear the brunt of our mistake, and the NCAA could have, and should have, remedied that in the interest of this student’s well-being, who is in this situation though absolutely no fault of his own.”.