Look, we all know the NCAA has no moral compass, no enforcement teeth, and no interest in actually enforcing the rules against their bell cows. So when they actually decertified an Oklahoma linebacker, it kind of made me take a little notice. Nevermind the fact that they chose a Sooner that we wouldn't mind seeing on the field - a lot - trying in vain to cover Shipley again this year, it was worth taking a look to see what in the world could cause the NCAA to have no other choice but to take action against an OU player.
In an effort to get to the real truth, Barking Carnival allowed me to hire countless interns and I eventually identified a well-placed source that enabled me to unearth a treasure trove of information. My source, for whom we'll use the pseudonym "Google" to protect him and his family, was quite cooperative and in fact never failed to answer my questions in a matter of milliseconds. I will now walk you through our conversations as we worked to find the truth. Prepare to enter a dark and seedy underworld where information can always be found but the NCAA can almost never be seen.
The first thing we did is start with a basic query regarding Mike Balogun and his semi-pro football career. "Google" was kind enough to point me toward some information from NewsOK. After reading that article I was amazed at how much information that proves Mike Balogun played semi-pro ball after his 21st birthday was apparently still available on the internet. I thought perhaps the author was only kidding. He referenced the information but didn't provide links. With that article duly read, I figured it was time to just give up looking for anything else and recommend the kid be given his eligibility back. I mean it's not like I have subpoena power or any way to find more information. Then I remembered the source.
Hmm...what if I asked him about this rumor printed by NewsOK that Balogun was a 2005 NAFL All-Star? Apparently our lines were crossed though, because Google responded at first with information regarding the championship game that was referenced in the NewsOK article instead of the all-star listing. Clearly this guy was going to play hard to get with his information.
At this point I was just throwing strings of relevant words at my source and he was singing like a canary. I dug a little deeper into the third response he gave me and once again he confirmed the nasty rumor published elsewhere. There really is a box score with this guy's name on it from a game played by the Maryland Marauders on November 12, 2005. It was getting harder to deny that this guy played a semi-pro game the day Vince Young tattooed 66-14 on Mangino's face in return for the BCS tirade.
Was there anything else out there about the Maryland Marauders of the NAFL? Well, playing in the sort of big leagues presents lots of cool stuff like an actual eteamz site that apparently hasn't been updated for a while. Conveniently for me, there was still information on the 2004 NAFL champs and their all-star reps, including Mike Balogun. That team won the championship on November 14, 2004 according to this Microsoft Word document press release from the team. Another release from the team confirms that Balogun was named defensive MVP of that championship game and goes into a little detail regarding his exploits.
If you're like me and the NCAA, though, you're still not convinced. It's not like there are any other stories out there that reference Balogun and semi-pro football after his 21st birthday. And even if there were stories like that, there's probably just some other guy named Mike Balogun that signed up for the same team right after OU's Mike Balogun left. I mean really, what's more likely - that Mike Balogun played semi-pro football after his 21st birthday and his teams, coaches and leagues were telling the truth about it when it was happening or that all these sites and people were lying about it and are now telling the truth about it 4-5 years after the fact? Let's not even get into the fact that the internet says Balogun played in the year following his 21st birthday and in the year following his 22nd birthday. Which would make him ineligible not only in 2009, but also in 2008. If true, which it's not.