Just prior to the University of Wisconsin’s season-opening exhibition against the U.S. National Under-18 Team, the school announced that prized freshman Nic Kerdiles would not be able to play due to eligibility issues with the NCAA.
This from Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal:
A media release said school officials “are working with the NCAA toward a resolution of the situation” with Kerdiles, a second-round NHL draft pick of Anaheim and a strong student who was projected to be a top-line forward for the Badgers.
…UW coach Mike Eaves would say only the NCAA has been looking into a specific matter “for a while” and he didn’t know when Kerdiles’ status for the season would be known.
“It’s not in my hands right now,” he said.
United States of Hockey has learned through a source with knowledge of the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that the ongoing NCAA investigation stems from potential violations as discovered through social media.
According to the source, Kerdiles unwittingly may have committed an NCAA violation when, in an effort to gain more Twitter followers, offered autographs to the newest follows. It’s innocent enough on the surface, but the NCAA rules its student-athletes with an iron fist. The tweet and Kerdiles’s account have since been deleted.
The source also explained that there has been further scrutiny surrounding a series of photographs
that appeared on Kerdiles’s Facebook page that may have alluded to a potential amateurism violation. This could be the bigger issue, but it remains unclear if any violation actually was committed at all.
UPDATE (6:55 p.m. CT): I’m now being told the the situation regarding autographs and Twitter followers is not the issue being investigated by the NCAA. For more details, Andy Johnson of Bucky’s 5th Quarter did some more digging. Johnson also reports that the photos in question were posted to Twitter, not Facebook.
According to the source, the sanctions could be as severe as a yearlong suspension, wiping out Kerdiles’s freshman season and a year of development should he choose to stay in school.
There has been real concern from the NCAA regarding potential recruiting violations committed over social media. I was unable to find any instances of student-athletes being sanctioned for anything more than tweeting at potential recruits, for which their institutions got in more trouble than the actual players. Kerdiles’s situation may be unprecedented.
Wisconsin is still working with the NCAA to clear Kerdiles to play, but based on Eaves’s comments, it’s all still up in the air. Here’s a look at what the NCAA says about reinstating student-athletes who have been ruled ineligible:
During the reinstatement process, specially trained NCAA staff members review each case on its own merits and facts. The staff members then provide an initial decision based on guidelines established by the Division I NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement. Those guidelines include the nature and seriousness of the violation, any impermissible benefits received and the student-athlete’s level of responsibility. Staff also considers any relevant case precedent and whatever mitigating factors the university presents.
This very well could be an instance of the overly-bureaucratic NCAA looking to make an example of Kerdiles for his apparent social media gaffes and set the precedent. If so, it’s unfortunate an incoming freshman, who one wouldn’t expect to be well-versed in compliance yet, would be the one made an example of.
Either way, the Anaheim Ducks, which drafted Kerdiles 36th overall in the 2012 Draft, won’t want their prospect missing a crucial year of development.
Should Kerdiles be ruled ineligible for the season, he would likely have the option of going back to the USHL for a season, where I believe his rights are up for grabs. Otherwise, Kerdiles could head north to the WHL, thus ending his collegiate eligibility for good. The Kelowna Rockets should still have rights to the forward.
Having spoken with Kerdiles and those that know him well in the past, his commitment to Wisconsin has been unwavering. I’d assume he’ll do whatever possible to stay with the Badgers, but there’s just no way taking a year off will be an option for a prospect of his stature, should the NCAA rule him ineligible.
United States of Hockey will continue to monitor the proceedings and update accordingly.