Truth or Dare: Should Dezmine Wells be Eligible to play this Season?

The following article was written by Benjamin Haynes, Esq.

It all started with a simple game of truth or dare, but ended with an allegation of sexual assault. Dezmine Wells stated that he was playing a game of truth or dare with a fellow student, which led to consensual sex between him and the fellow student. However, the next day the fellow student claimed she was sexually assaulted.

Dezmine spent his freshman year at Xavier last season, where he averaged 9.8 PPG and was named to the All-Atlantic 10 Rookie Team. Earlier this month, Wells was expelled from Xavier for this alleged incident of sexual misconduct. On Monday, August 27th, Wells testified in front of a Grand Jury. The very next morning, the Grand Jury declined to prosecute Wells. Hamilton County prosecutor, Joe Deters, stated that, “it wasn’t even close…we would never take anything like this to court. It just wouldn’t happen.”

Deters then directed some choice words towards the University, saying that the Xavier University Conduct Board acted “fundamentally unfair” as well as calling their system “seriously flawed”. Deters also suggested that the Conduct Board should “revisit this thing” and that it was not fair to ruin someone’s reputation.

In response to Deters’ comments, Xavier stated, “federal law and federal regulations prohibit universities from ceding student conduct matters to the criminal justice system. The Federal law requires schools to act quickly and all schools, by law, must use the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard. Further, the Xavier University conduct board heard evidence that may or may not have been heard by the Grand Jury. After the conduct board reached its decision, the matter was considered and upheld by an appeal board of members from the student body, faculty and staff and is final.”

While this is all partially good news for Dezmine, and looks poorly on Xavier, where does this leave Dezmine for his own collegiate career?

As reported yesterday by Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, Dezmine Wells is in Lexington, Kentucky visiting the University of Kentucky campus. Sources indicate that a commitment to the Wildcats could come as early as today from Dezmine Wells. The question remains, will Dezmine Wells be eligible for the upcoming 2012-2013 season? Jeff Goodman stated, “it’s certainly not out of the realm, but it appears to be a long-shot because he was still kicked out of another university.” However, if the NCAA agrees with Deters that Xavier wrongfully kicked Dezmine out of their school, will the NCAA grant this waiver?

John Infante wrote a blog entry titled “Transfer 101”, which discusses the NCAA eligibility transfer rules at length. He stated:

Conventional wisdom says that student-athletes in football and basketball must sit out a year while athletes in other sports do not. In practice, conventional wisdom is mostly correct. According to the rules though, that is not always the case. The basic rule is that any transfer from any collegiate institution to a Division I school must spend one academic year in residence before he or she is eligible for competition. In order to not sit out a year, the student-athlete must qualify for an exception to the residency requirement.

John also wrote about the waiver exception:

All NCAA rules are subject to waivers from the Subcommittee for Legislative Relief (SLR) and the NCAA staff in that area. The transfer rules have a number of such waivers. The most well known are the graduate transfer waiver (which still exists) and the hardship transfer waiver. The hardship transfer waiver is for student-athletes who are compelled to transfer because of financial hardship or an injury or illness to the student-athlete or a member of their family. (emphasis added.)

While initially it doesn’t look like Dezmine fits under the hardship transfer waiver, it could be argued that Dezmine has suffered extreme financial hardship now that he was expelled, at no fault of his own, and therefore doesn’t have the finances to support his education. If the subcommittee finds this to be true, then the one-year waiver exception could be granted.

A rule that could keep Dezmine from playing next year is NCAA rule 14.5.1.2. This rule states, “Disciplinary Suspension: 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.” Since Dezmine was disqualified from the institution due to disciplinary reasons, it seems as if he will have to complete a full year of residence before being eligible to play.

The NCAA recently stated, “President Emmert is convening a task force specifically to work on transfer rules. Additionally, as part of its thorough examination of the rulebook, a committee led by university presidents and comprised of NCAA members from across the country is reviewing every rule to determine if it is meaningful, enforceable and advances student-athlete well-being. That review is ongoing, with new bylaws expected to be presented to the Division I Board of Directors later in 2012 or early 2013.” Therefore, we could be seeing a change to the transfer rules in due time. However, this plan to change the rules in the future won’t help Dezmine at this time.

Hopefully the NCAA will look at this from a common sense standpoint and not punish a student-athlete for being expelled from a school where he was not at fault. Fairness states that he should be eligible to play immediately, wherever he decides to transfer. However, we know that the NCAA doesn’t apply common sense to certain situations. Therefore, Dezmine could end up watching from the sidelines this next season all stemming from a game of truth or dare. 

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