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The NCAA is throwing down the gauntlet

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No, the NCAA is not changing unless it’s made to change.

NCAA Basketball: Memphis at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday morning, Ohio State announced that star defensive lineman Chase Young — apparently the potential number one pick in the 2020 NFL Draftwould be held out of action against Maryland over a potential eligibility issue, rumored to have stemmed from a loan given to him by a “family friend” (at one point thought to possibly also be an agent, though this hasn’t been confirmed.)

That’s pretty run-of-the-mill. Most information suggests that Young repaid the loan, meaning he’ll probably sit for a game or two. This, however, is new.

James Wiseman, Nashville native and onetime Vanderbilt basketball recruiting target who moved from Nashville to Memphis, where he played for Penny Hardaway’s Memphis East team (and AAU team, but who’s counting?), was ruled ineligible on Friday afternoon. Wiseman is the potential number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. And then, in an amazing turn of events, Wiseman went to court and got a temporary restraining order. Wiseman played in Memphis’s game tonight, a 92-46 laugher against Illinois-Chicago that Memphis probably would have won regardless.

In this case, as it turned out, Penny Hardaway himself had paid for Wiseman’s family to move from Nashville to Memphis. That wouldn’t have been an issue for the NCAA except that (a) Penny Hardaway, because he donated $1 million to the University of Memphis back in 2008, is a “booster” in the NCAA’s rulebook, and (b) James Wiseman enrolled at Memphis. That Penny Hardaway is also now the head coach at Memphis — in large part because of his connection to prospects like, well, James Wiseman — is actually not really at issue here, though it probably makes the violation even more egregious than it would if Tubby Smith were still Memphis’s head coach.

(I kid. Were Tubby Smith still Memphis’s head coach, James Wiseman would probably be playing at Kentucky. It’s also somewhat ironic, considering that this is literally exactly how Coach Pete Bell landed Penny Hardaway’s character in Blue Chips.)

This is actually somewhat fascinating to watch. In the face of numerous states passing bills stating that the NCAA can no longer enforce its rules prohibiting student-athletes from being compensated, the NCAA, on the same day, by declaring two high-profile players ineligible for ... being compensated.

This is not an NCAA behaving like it’s facing an “existential crisis,” as many sportswriters have put it. This is an NCAA throwing down the gauntlet and declaring war.

As far as I know, I’ve never heard of a school being told that a player is likely ineligible and then going out and playing him anyway, but Memphis gonna Memphis.