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Goofy NCAA Rules: Oral Roberts Edition

Monday, January 13, 2014 12:35pm
By: Mark Owens

In our ongoing tour around the ridiculousness that seems to litter NCAA bylaws, our next stop is in Oklahoma. Specifically, Tulsa, Oklahoma – home of the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles, who were recently forced to forfeit two Southland Conference League games

“Use of an ineligible player?”, you ask. 

Nope. 

“Improper benefits to recruits?”

“Huh uh.”

“Ooooh! Academic fraud?!?!?”

No, the culprit NCAA bylaw here is 20.9.8.1 and specifically it states: 

“An institution may schedule and play not more than four basketball games, including any contest (e.g., scrimmage, exhibition), in an academic year against institutions that are not members of Division I.” 

And that’s a problem for the Golden Eagles.

You see, according to this rule, ORU opponents Dallas Baptist and Cameron College (against whom ORU played in regular season games), plus Rogers State & Northwood (exhibition foes) are not Division 1 teams.  With these four teams on Oral Roberts’ schedule, they're at the maximum number allowable of four non-Division 1 opponents. 

So what’s the problem, you ask? I mean, they're allowed to play four teams, per the above bylaw. 

Well, Southland Conference teams University of the Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian are both moving into the Southland this year, but are not recognized as full-fledged D-1 members (the NCAA's official term for this is "transitional"). Because each are part of the Southland Conferece but are not yet recognized as Division 1 schools, they count towards the Golden Eagles’ total…of SIX GAMES versus non-Division 1 teams. 

Details are sketchy, but I believe the technical term the NCAA's Indianapolis home office uses to describe situations like this one is “A Bozo No-No”. 

The obvious question, of course, seems simple. How in the WORLD could Oral Roberts have allowed this to happen?

The answer to that question, as is usually the case surrounding ANYTHING to do with NCAA bylaws, depends upon whom you ask. 

In a release by the school, they stated: 

“When the 2013-14 men’s basketball schedule was created, we thought that exhibition games against non-Division I opponents were exempt from the four-game limit. Our men’s basketball program put together its schedule for 2013-14. The schedule went through the standard athletic department approval process that includes several administrators, and unfortunately, the discrepancy was not discovered.”

Privately, ORU staffers will tell you that they were let down by the fact that the Southland Conference office didn’t catch this error, and point to the fact that ORU is leaving the conference to return back to its Summit League roots as, perhaps, part of the reason the league did not exactly exhaust itself to catch the error is related to backlash surrounding its exodus. 

So in summation, perhaps a touch of conference-shuffling anger, mixed with insufficient knowledge of an archaic, little-known NCAA bylaw, and topped off with some good old-fashioned negligence all adds up to the forfeiture of two league games for Oral Roberts, a school trying desperately to qualify for postseason play. 

And here you thought all of the intrigue and goofiness of college sports was relegated to BCS conference schools!