Desmond Harrison & BYU's Curious Impotence

George Frey

So I decided I didn't really know enough about the Desmond Harrison situation and spent most of my Tuesday evening digging through that rabbit hole.

The puzzle: if BYU is rescinding Harrison's credit from their Independent Study program, why are Texas coaches suddenly letting him practice? Word across the Longhorn interwebs is, NCAA has given signs that they'll let him play - but assuming that's true, why?

Problem is, no one can directly comment about the details of Harrison's academic record. Privacy laws and all that. So we don't have any details about when the course was taken except that it was taken for the sake of Contra Costa CC's eligibility requirements, not Texas' or the NCAA.

Fortunately that's enough to narrow it down somewhat. The school only requires a high school degree or equivalent to attend, so it's not an initial entrance thing. The CCCAA - the Cali CC system's version of the NCAA - lists their eligibility requirements here (pp. 51-53). The essentials can be summed up as follows:

* For the first year, get admitted and be enrolled in at least 12 hours of classes per semester in which they compete

* For the second year, have 24 credit hours of prior coursework from accredited collegiate institutions with a cumulative 2.0 GPA, plus the above requirements

Also important: Title V of the California Code of Regulations, Sections 55761 & 55762 (here, p. 18) gives all CA public college students the right to replace any "D"-level grade or below on their transcript by re-taking the course from any accredited collegiate institution. This is a right granted by the state to all students and the CCCAA rules explicitly grant that right to student athletes in their schools. No provision is made anywhere restricting that right to in-person coursework at CCCAA schools or denying unsupervised online course credit the way the NCAA does.

So IMO the obvious conclusion is that Harrison took the BYU class in order to replace a grade from his first year at Contra Costa, to get his first year cumulative GPA above a 2.0 so he would be eligible for a second year. The way California law and CCCAA rules are written, if a replacement grade is granted by an accredited college, they have to accept it and remove the old grade from the GPA calculation. So Contra Costa CC did nothing against the rules and neither did Harrison. He just disregarded a long and confusing blurb - not a terms-of-use agreement, mind you, just a CYA disclaimer - on the BYU site.

We can discuss the ramifications for the Texas academic program but IMO the most screwed up aspect of this situation is BYU and their maintenance (or lack thereof) of their Independent Study program. Let's be frank: it's garbage. If a kid can't hack a 2.0 in a community college setting, why would he be able to get better grades from a four-year school like BYU without some kind of hands-on tutelage? Answer: because the BYU-IS program hands out college credit like it's Halloween candy. That's why the NCAA won't allow students under its purview to use it for athletic eligibility anymore. But the CCCAA doesn't have that provision and already graduated Harrison legally and in good faith, so BYU's decision to rescind the credit is simply too little, too late.

And here's the key: the NCAA reviewed Harrison's CCCC records - which should have detailed any replacement credits Harrison received, and the granting institution - and granted him qualifier status anyway, meaning that for Texas to start playing him immediately they only need to know that during Harrison's time at CCCC he graduated while averaging 12 hours per semester and a 2.0 GPA overall. Full stop. So if Harrison cleared a 2.0 without the BYU credit - which he certainly might've, since he likely took the BYU class after only one year of college, and he took a full 24 hours of credit after that - IMO there's absolutely no reason for Texas to take him out of practice or out of the games. And it appears Bellmont has reached the same conclusion.

Be excellent to each other.

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