Shabazz Muhammad ineligible
Peter Yoon [ARCHIVE]
ESPNLosAngeles.com
November 13, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad has been declared ineligible for competition after a lengthy NCAA investigation determined he had committed a violation of the NCAA's amateurism rules.

An NCAA news release Friday night stated: "Muhammad is not eligible to compete in (Friday's) game due to violations of NCAA amateurism rules," and it made no mention of future games.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said Friday night before UCLA's season opener that he knows only that Muhammad, the No. 2 overall recruit in the ESPN 100 last year, has been declared ineligible at this time.

On Tuesday, Muhammad's family released a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

"Last Friday, the NCAA released a Press Release which not only was wrong in its conclusions but which also inaccurately portrayed the investigation process in this case," the statement read in part. "For over a year, the NCAA has known all of the relevant facts related to its ruling last Friday. Prior to the unofficial visits in question, Ron Holmes and Benjamin Lincoln received approval from NCAA (through its member universities) for Mr. Lincoln (who has had a continuous close friendship with Shabazz's family since 2007) to pay for airline tickets and hotel rooms. In 2010, Mr. Holmes openly and honestly revealed to the NCAA the source of the payments on the NCAA's compliance form."

After the No. 13 Bruins' 86-59 win over Indiana State, which Muhammad watched from the bench, UCLA coach Ben Howland called the ruling "very disappointing."

"I feel terrible for Shabazz because he is a great kid and has had a phenomenal attitude in dealing with this review by the NCAA," Howland said. "We were very optimistic that he was going to be cleared today, so we are very disappointed for him. We're hopeful that it's something that is going to be worked out in the near future.

"When he is able to play, he's going to add a big boost for us. He's a guy who can really score, really shoot and he's a great rebounder."

Howland added that Muhammad, who strained his right shoulder on Oct. 25, practiced again for the first time Thursday.

Before the Bruins' win, Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, donned a powder blue T-shirt featuring text that read "Free Shabazz Muhammad" as he played a rock-inspired version of the national anthem.

UCLA has two choices -- it can either appeal that decision or it can seek reinstatement. If UCLA appeals and it is denied, the Bruins can then seek reinstatement.

A source told ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil that NCAA committees are aware of an ineligible athlete's game schedule and attempt to clarify things as soon as they can, once the reinstatement process begins.

Guerrero said the school would immediately appeal the NCAA decision. If the NCAA reinstates Muhammad, a specific penalty, including number of games suspended and amount of money to be repaid, if any, would be issued, Guerrero said.

"First things first, we're looking to challenge the decision in the appropriate manner and we'll do that," Guerrero said. "Right now, the only determination that was made ... was that there were violations of amateurism."

Muhammad, the national high school player of the year last year and the top recruit in a UCLA class rated No. 1 in the country, was found to have accepted travel and lodging during three unofficial visits to two NCAA-member schools, the NCAA statement said.

Those visits were to Duke and North Carolina and were paid for by a family friend, Lincoln, a source unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter said. The friend, a financial advisor, is the brother of an assistant coach of Muhammad's high school team in Las Vegas.

The NCAA allows for such benefits, provided they come from someone with a pre-existing family relationship. Guerrero said the NCAA deemed the relationship with Muhammad's family and the financial advisor fell outside those parameters.

"It was determined that that relationship would not have allowed the support from that individual to allow the family to receive the benefits that they got," Guerrero said.

The NCAA statement said the organization had reviewed "thousands of pages of information" and that it had interviewed Muhammad's parents last week. The NCAA rendered its decision "within hours" after consulting with UCLA on Friday afternoon.

The NCAA said it had requested documents on July 31 but did not start receiving the documents until Sept. 25. It received more on Oct. 10 and "additional critical information" on Nov. 1.

Guerrero said UCLA pushed the NCAA to make a ruling before the Bruins' season opener and praised the NCAA for doing so. He said that bodes well for a quick resolution to determining Muhammad's status for future games.

"We feel that they will try to work with us to try to facilitate whatever approach we take," Guerrero said.

Information from ESPN.com college basketball reporter Dana O'Neil and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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