The NCAA has a heart.
The organization announced today it has waived its year-in residence requirement for Jake Kelly, making the Iowa transfer eligible to compete at Indiana State during the upcoming season “due to his extraordinary personal circumstances.”
Kelly opted to transfer to the Missouri Valley Conference program in March, nine months after he witnessed the death of his mother in a plane crash that took place during a family vacation trip to Florida in the summer of 2008. The waiver allows Kelly to compete immediately without sitting out the normal one year the NCAA requires for athletes who move from Division I program to another.
The uniqueness of Kelly’s situation, and the delay in his decision to transfer, slowed the NCAA as it worked through a waiver process that includes criteria which addresses unique situations and extenuating circumstances that are not outlined in the organization’s rules. When that happens, each case is reviewed individually with the interest and well-being of all student-athletes in mind.
Indiana State presented Kelly’s request to the NCAA late this summer, a request that included support from Iowa officials. Approval alllows the honorable mention all-Big Ten guard to play this season for the Sycamores on a campus that is a handful of miles from where he grew up and from where his father and other family members live.
Indiana State coach Kevin McKenna, in a statement, said the process was handled well by the NCAA.
“This decision will mean a lot to his close friends and family. I think that this is really going to help him and his family with the healing process,” McKenna said. “The ability to have his mind on school, basketball and our team while playing will be the best thing for him.”
Kelly attended Marshall High School in Marshall, Ill. — a little over 10 miles from Indiana State’s Terre Haute campus — until his junior year of high school when he transferred to Carmel High School in suburban Indianapolis.
This is one case where the NCAA got it right.
Kelly’s circumstances deserve the waiver he was granted. Iowa will miss a player who was beginning to come into his own at the Big Ten level, but this situation involved more than basketball.
There are still fans who lump his departure in with the exits of three other players last spring. Truth be told, timing was about the only shared element. Kelly’s situation, and his deeply personal struggles to deal with the witnessed death of a parent in a tragic accident, justify his decision and desire for a change of scenery.
Thankfully, the NCAA understood that as well.