Bledsoe should get OK to play

WHEELING – The NCAA is a much-maligned agency.

The college-controlling organization, based in Indianapolis, is anything but athlete-friendly. The NCAA holds student-athletes to much stricter, and often times unfair, standards than it does its coaches.

Coaches have unrestricted career mobility. Athletes, meanwhile, are held hostage by restrictive transfer rules.

One non-sensical NCAA policy has placed a former Wheeling Park standout’s college career in limbo.

Phil Bledsoe was a two-time all-stater for Coach Michael Jebbia’s Patriots. His prep play prowess earned him a scholarship to D-I Marshall.

After two less-than-glamorous seasons with the Thundering Herd, Bledsoe opted to transfer to Glenville State, hoping to be a force at the D-II level.

The move paid dividends. The 6-6 forward enjoyed a superb campaign, averaging 19.9 points and nearly 12 rebounds per game for the Pioneers.

It was an impressive season indeed, so much so, he wanted to test the interest of NBA teams. Bledsoe did so by making use of a new NCAA rule that enables college players to sign with an agent and still return to school.

Bledsoe removed himself from the NBA Draft prior to last week’s NCAA deadline to withdraw in order to retain college eligibility.

No problem, right? The talented forward was poised for another big season at Glenville.

Through no fault of his own, Bledsoe now may have his collegiate playing days truncated. Should that come to fruition, you can place the blame on a stupid NCAA rule and an inept Glenville State compliance officer.

As fate would have it, the rule applies only to athletes at Division I schools. Glenville is D-II.

It makes no sense to this writer why the rule does not encompass all levels of college basketball. NBA players do come out of the D-II ranks…look no further than Charles Oakley from Virginia Union. Hall of Famer Scotty Pippen played at an NAIA school (Central Arkansas).

So why exclude players outside of D-I? That is totally unfair.

With that said, the rule, even though it is exclusionary in nature, is what it is.

Therefore, much blood lies on the hands of Glenville’s compliance officer, Bill Lilly. Compliance officers have critical jobs. It is their duty to make sure their student-athletes meet NCAA guidelines.

They must know the rules inside and out. Lilly obviously did not. He obviously didn’t do his needed homework.

The rule is in its infancy. It went into effect this past August. Still, that is no excuse for the compliance officer dropping the ball.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. Glenville will undoubtedly file an appeal in Bledsoe’s behalf.

It should be met with receptive hands by the NCAA. Bledsoe did nothing wrong except having faith in his compliance officer.

The NCAA has created the transfer portal. It has proven a popular vehicle for disgruntled players. Many have been granted immediate eligibility with no legitimate reason other than they were afraid to compete (Ohio State QB Tate Martell transferring to Miami).

With such fluid movement by athletes from school to school now OK in the eyes of the NCAA, Bledsoe’s issue is simply a misstep by his compliance officer. Common sense — a quality the NCAA is short on — would dictate the NCAA give Bledsoe a green light to resume his collegiate hoop career while giving Glenville a slap on the wrist.

ABBY CALDWELL

FORMER RIVER High track standout Abby Caldwell has authored a tremendous career at West Liberty University.

Caldwell now holds or shares six Hilltopper records: indoor 55-meter dash (shared); indoor 60-meter dash; indoor 4×200 relay; outdoor 100-meter dash; outdoor 4×100 relay; outdoor long jump (shared).

In this year’s MEC conference meet, Caldwell placed fifth in the long jump, seventh in the 100 meters and was part of the 4×100 that placed sixth. This outdoor season, she recorded five wins (two in long jump, one in the 4×1, one in the 200, one in the 100).

BUBBA’S BITS

THE TOUGH as Nails Urban Challenge was a smashing success a week ago in Wheeling. Every participant I talked with, and that was many, simply loved it. One of the most impressive performances was turned in by retiring St. Clairsville athletic director Kelly Rine. He flashed the same athleticism as he did when he was a standout safety for the OVAC champion 9-1 Bridgeport Bulldogs in 1978.

TAMPA BAY is one of the pleasant surprises of the Major League Baseball season. Steubenville native Chaz Roe has played a key role in the Rays’ success. He boasts a 2.20 ERA in 24 games. Roe has fanned 20 batters in 16.1 innings of work. He is the son of former Buckeye North and University of Kentucky grid star Don Roe. Chaz’s uncle is Martins Ferry grid assistant Jim Hoover, also a Buckeye North and Eastern Michigan football standout.

THE 24TH annual BMAC Mountaineer Golf Classic is scheduled for Thursday, July 16 at Moundsville Country Club. All proceeds benefit the BMAC Upper Ohio Valley Endowed Athletic Scholarship. Sponsors are being sought for the event. Anyone wishing to golf or serve as a sponsor should call John S. Marshall at 740-695-4262.

A FREE Youth Football Camp is planned in Weirton on June 10-13. Grades 3-5 are welcome June 10 & 11 while grades 6-8 take part June 12 & 13. All sessions run from 9 a.m. till noon. Registration is at 8:15 a.m. on June 10 & 12. It will be held at Jimmy Carey Stadium. Instructions will be given by coaches and players.

DON OGDEN has been hired as the new Steubenville Catholic Central head boys’ basketball coach. He previously served as head girls’ coach at Madonna. Ogden replaces Mike Holmes who will become the athletic director at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Ia. on July 1.

MANY, MANY kudos go out to St. Clairsville High baseball coach Tom Sliva and his amazing Red Devils. No one saw a state tournament berth in their future when the post-season began. Sliva, however, is one of the best in the prep baseball coaching business and his charges are on a magic carpet ride. We wish them two more wins this spring.

ALTHOUGH THEY dropped Game 1 in Toronto, I still like the Warriors to repeat as NBA champions, with or without the services of Kevin Durant.

OUR PRAYERS and condolences go out to the family of Nick Visnic Jr. The former Linsly Military Institute and WVU basketball standout died Thursday in Florida. He was 79. Visnic was also a stellar high school and college basketball official.

COMMENTS