The No. 2 prospect in the country and incoming University of Texas freshman Mo Bamba recently found himself at the center of an eligibility controversy before he ever stepped foot on a college basketball court when his brother let loose a Facebook Live tirade accusing him of receiving all kinds of impermissible benefits. Today, the NCAA announced that they found no violations and that Bamba's eligibility remains intact.
Last month, Bamba's brother Ibrahim Joseph alleged that a financial adviser named Greer Love approached his brother and the family, plying Bamba with free shoes, weekly stipends, TVs, and expensive vacations. In the video he claimed that Bamba would not play at Texas because he "exposed" his brother, and as a result the NCAA was investigating him. In its statement today, the NCAA did not find that these accusations were without merit, rather it claimed they fell under its "pre-existing relationship" exception to impermissible benefits. Here, from the NCAA code, is the relevant language:
1. Did the relationship between the student-athlete (or the athlete's parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) develop as a result of the student-athlete's participation in athletics or
notoriety related thereto?
2. Did the relationship between the student-athlete (or the athlete's parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) predate the athlete's status as a prospective student-athlete?
3. Did the relationship between the student-athlete (or the athlete's parents) and the individual
providing the benefit(s) predate the student-athlete's status achieved as a result of his athletics
ability or reputation?
4. Was the pattern of benefits provided by the individual to the student-athlete (or the athlete's
parents) prior to the student-athlete attaining notoriety as a skilled athlete similar in nature to
those provided after attaining such stature?
In summary, NCAA rules would not allow a student athlete to receive benefits from persons who have come to know the athlete as a result of his achieved status, reputation or participation as an athlete.
The NCAA said that since Love met Bamba in the fourth grade through an after-school mentoring program he established in Harlem in 2008—the same year he met Bamba—it passed the sniff test. Even though there was an athletic aspect to the program—specifically basketball Love's relationship with Bamba was not based on Bamba's "ability or reputation as an athlete." The NCAA also said that any future benefits provided by Love would also be permissible as long as the nature of those benefits don't dramatically change from previous ones.
If that all sounds confusing and arbitrary to the point of absurdity, welcome to the NCAA, where decisions appear to be made by getting drunk and spinning a wheel of options. The pre-existing relationship rule is one that makes sense on its face—just because you have a rich, generous friend shouldn't screw up your eligibility—but it also seems absolutely ripe for abuse and seemingly encourages slimy individuals to prey on young athletes. So instead of a scummy agent swooping in on a family for a year in high school, you've got guys planting flags for years, with an NCAA codified blueprint for navigating the waters. Not convinced? Here's what Love said shortly after Joseph made his allegations, in an interview with 247Sports:
"When Mo asked me to guide him and help coordinate the logistics of his recruitment," Love told 247Sports, "I immediately engaged the former Chief Compliance Officer of two Big 10 / Big 12 schools, who provided frequent consultation on a variety of matters. Doing things the right way has been our top priority since day one. Mo's got way too much to lose to take any chances on anything even remotely impermissible. With my 9-year, pre-existing relationship on the line with Mo personally, let alone his college eligibility, I took several additional measures to ensure that Mo was fully compliant every step of the way."
Maybe Love, a financial advisor from Michigan who went to school in Indiana, just happened to open up a mentoring program in Bamba's NYC hometown and it's all a huge coincidence. He was in fourth grade after all, and maybe it doesn't matter that two years later, in 2010, his older brother Sidiki Johnson was being recruited by Arizona, St. John's, Providence, and West Virginia. But Love knew exactly what to do to avoid running afoul of the NCAA's eligibility problems and in the process became a trusted advisor and financial benefactor.
He's also an NCAA-inspired middle man who would be wholly unnecessary if they would JUST. PAY. THE. PLAYERS.