It appears the long drawn-out process that has kept freshman Nic Kerdiles from playing for the University of Wisconsin will reach its conclusion no later than Friday. The NCAA will hear today Wisconsin’s appeal of the decision that ruled Kerdiles ineligible for the year.
The decision was reached after a months-long investigation which was apparently sparked by a series of tweets sent by Kerdiles family advisor Ian Pulver and other staff members of the Pulver Sports agency. While the breadth of the NCAA’s investigation is not known, it appears the investigation surrounded Kerdiles’s relationship with Pulver.
Players are allowed to have family advisors, but there are rules on what those advisors are allowed to do. It is unclear if the tweets were the only violations committed, as those tweets could all be perceived as promoting or marketing Kerdiles’s talent, especially since many of those tweets came prior to the NHL Draft.
The one tweet that appears to be an issue, above all others, was a photo tweeted by Pulver of Kerdiles along with prospects Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk (both represented by Igor Larionov, a Pulver Sports agent) holding BioSteel branded products.
After reviewing the NCAA rules, this might be the section in which they found Kerdiles to be in violation of:
18.104.22.168 Advertisements and Promotions After Becoming a Student-Athlete.
After becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible or participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual:
(a) Accepts any remuneration or or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind
The individual’s eligibility will not be affected, provided the individual participated in such activities prior to enrollment and the individual: or(b) takes appropriate steps upon becoming a student-athlete to retract permission or the use of his or her name or picture and ceases receipt of any remuneration or such an arrangement.
If this is where the sanctions are coming from, it’s flimsy at best on the NCAA’s part. These photos were taken at the NHL Draft combine, and as long as Kerdiles was not enrolled in school at that time, it shouldn’t be an issue. That is unless the NCAA felt he didn’t take appropriate steps to retract permission (if he ever gave any in the first place) for the use of his name and picture. It is also clear that Kerdiles never received payment for this.
UW’s deputy athletic director Sean Frazier called the sanctions from the NCAA unprecedented. That leads me to believe Wisconsin has a good case and may be able to get Kerdiles reinstated.
That is, unless, the NCAA wants to set some kind of precedent here, which would be unfortunate.
Also, think of it this way. We don’t know if Kerdiles gave permission for those photos to become public, we can assume loosely that it was implied by him posing for the shots. That said, imagine what kind of hole this could potentially open up for agents in other sports, too.
Baseball is a sport in which agents have an incentive to get high school players to skip college all together with high school draftees receiving large sums of money up front to sign. If a player is dead set on college, but has a big money offer on the table, what is to stop that agent from “unintentionally” sullying his eligibility by sending promotional tweets about that player or photographing him with branded product. That’s where this all gets messy.
The only other factor in the Kerdiles issue currently is what we don’t know about the investigation and that could be just about anything. Knowing the player and his family, there is little reason to believe there is more to this than what we have seen on Twitter.
According to sources close to the family, Kerdiles has never accepted a free meal or ride from Pulver (both NCAA violations), and there’s nothing to suggest Pulver ever offered those things. So what else could the NCAA have on Kerdiles beyond the photos and tweets that may have been sent without his permission in the first place? Additionally, what is the benefit for the NCAA ruling so harshly against a player that may have unintentionally committed violations before he ever enrolled in school? Shouldn’t there be at least a little leniency? I’d argue there should be.
Had Kerdiles accepted large sums of money or gifts, I could see the NCAA’s stand, but if this is a result of violations committed over social media and maybe nothing more than circumstantial evidence, it’s farcical at best.
Based on the little we do know, it appears that the University of Wiconsin has a strong case for reinstatement. No matter what, we’ll have an answer either later Thursday or some time Friday if Nic Kerdiles will get to play hockey at his preferred destination.