One waiver down, (at least) one to go.
Malik Smith announced on Twitter this afternoon that the NCAA has waived the requirement for him to establish residence for a year before playing for Minnesota. The Gophers later confirmed the news via a press release, in which head coach Richard Pitino said: “We are certainly excited that the NCAA has approved the waiver for Malik. He is a great addition to the roster given his skills and invaluable knowledge of how we run our program.” Said Smith on Twitter:
Man this has been a great day for me and my family. Just got my NCAA waiver to play immediately God is good!— Malik Smith (@leeksmith30) July 17, 2013
This means Smith, a guard who averaged 14.1 ppg at FIU last season, will be eligible right away, rather than sitting out a year after transferring from Florida International. He has just one season of eligibility, meaning his spot (and scholarship) will be open again for the high school class of 2014.
The Gophers had prepared a case based on the NCAA bylaw exception that states student athletes can be eligible for a waiver if their former institution is banned from the postseason for all the remaining years of that player’s eligibility. FIU received such a ban last month when the APR numbers were released, failing to reach the NCAA’s minimum (the ruling was based on the school’s four-year average, meaning that neither Pitino, nor Smith had much to do with it).
Even so, getting such a waiver is far from a guarantee, Minnesota's Director of Compliance, JT Bruett said. In fact, the NCAA can vary substantially in who it decides to grant waivers to, and who it denies. The process is long and complicated with statements from the player and coaches required and other factors – such as grades – coming into play as well.
That means that Rakeem Buckles another FIU player who could join the Gophers at some point, could certainly have a very different experience if he comes here, regardless of Smith’s success in the matter.
For now, though, it’s good news for Minnesota. The Gophers are also currently working on a different waiver for Joey King, an Eagan native.