This past summer, Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus attended a party in Miami thrown by an agent. At some point, he went back to Miami for seconds. Over the course of these two trips, he rang up nearly $1,800 in airfare, hotel accommodations, and other expenses that the agent paid for. For this, the NCAA suspended him last week for the Tide's first two games of 2010 (immediately knocked down from four games for nebulous "mitigating circumstances," according to the NCAA).
Today, the NCAA brought down the hammer on Georgia wideout A.J. Green for selling his Independence Bowl jersey to an agent. Check that: someone who "meets the organization's definition of an agent," cryptic wording that I've seen in every single story I've read on the Green case. The sale was for less than a grand, Green has already repaid the money -- yet he's been suspended for four games. (The game he voluntarily sat out against Louisiana-Lafayette counts toward this total; thank the Lord for tender mercies.)
All this just a week after the NCAA ruled Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli ineligible to play this year at Ole Miss, then reversed themselves just three days later and granted Ole Miss' appeal. Does anyone still have enough faith in the National Collegiate Athletic Association to believe that they're not making their eligibility decisions with a 20-sided Dungeons 'n' Dragons die? When Green does return -- whenever that is -- will he have lost 10 strength points and 5 experience?
My frustration is only partially directed outward, of course; Green should've known better. Considering that the players-can't-sell-their-team-stuff rule was inspired by a 2003 incident in which a bunch of Georgia players sold their SEC championship rings, you'd think that the coaching staff and/or athletic department would've done a better job filling the players in on the rules regarding what they can and can't sell. Or that Green would've at least sought out one of his coaches for advice before pulling the trigger on the sale.
But that doesn't make the NCAA's sentencing logic here any easier to figure out. How did Green end up with twice the punishment as Dareus when he received half the benefits, and was at least courteous enough to be selling something in exchange for the cash, rather than just taking handouts? And does A.J. get any credit whatsoever for having turned down the all-expenses-paid trip to Miami that Dareus took (twice)?
Who knows. Georgia, wisely, is appealing the punishment, so there's a chance that the NCAA will miraculously stumble upon some more of those "mitigating circumstances" and let him come back in time for the Arkansas game a couple weeks from now. But God help the next player who accepts so much as an iTunes gift card from someone he doesn't know -- he might have to sit out an entire season.