By NAOMI FEINSTEIN
The NCAA announced Monday afternoon that University of Miami junior Dewan Hernandez is ineligible to play the rest of the college basketball season and must sit out 40 percent of next season’s games. The 6-11 forward has missed the first 19 games of the season.
“I am very disappointed in the outcome,” Dewan Hernandez said in a statement. “I don’t believe the NCAA treated me fairly and it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to withdraw from the University of Miami and prepare for the 2019 NBA draft.
After electing to forgo the NBA draft and return to the University of Miami for his junior season, Hernandez received a crushing blow to improve his draft stock after the NCAA ruled him ineligible prior to the season. After a lengthy appeals process, the NCAA officially rejected his request for eligibility.
According to the NCAA, Hernandez received monthly payments and benefits from the agent Christian Dawkins who was found guilty in October for conspiracy to commit fraud along with three other defendants. Dawkins was at the center of a FBI investigation into the alleged corruption in college basketball where there were reports of a dozen student athletes being provided improper benefits. Hernandez was one of the athletes listed in the report.
University of Miami’s athletic director Blake James wrote on Twitter, “Today’s decision by the NCAA regarding Dewan Hernandez is not only disappointing but unfair. Based on the totality of the facts the University is not in agreement with the decisions and interpretations of this case and made it well-known to the NCAA staff that we have many reservations about the reliability of evidence and ultimate conclusions.”
The NCAA claimed the punishment could have been much harsher considering the allegations, but the existence of particular factors lessened Hernandez’s chances of being ruled permanently ineligible.
Hernandez’s lawyer Jason Setchen said he felt frustrated and disgusted after hearing the ruling. “I was not expecting the decision to be that harsh. I certainly knew it was a possibility, but it did not think that would be ultimately how they would come down on Dewan given the record of the case,” Setchen said. “I think that were a lot of other mitigating factors that should have been considered or at least were not given enough weight.”
Hernandez, who formally changed his name from Huell this past offseason, signed with the Hurricanes as a McDonald’s All-American and a top 30 national recruit out of Miami Norland High School. The former five-start recruit averaged 8.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in two seasons at the U.
The Hurricanes are off to its worst start since 2007 at 9-10 and 1-6 in ACC play. The team most recently lost to in-state rival Florida State and now face a difficult opponent in No. 12 Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. Without Hernandez, head coach Jim Larrañaga has been left to use a seven-man rotation in a deep ACC conference where teams are able to go 10 players deep into the rotation. It was evident that the team lacks the depth to compete after the loss to the Seminoles Sunday night.
Through the whole process, Larrañaga has voiced his support for Hernandez and hoped the NCAA would do the right thing in reinstating him. After the ruling, Larrañaga said on 560 WQAM, “As excited as were about signing [Dewan], it was so much more enjoyable to just be around him these last three years. I just love the young man; a hard worker; a dedicated athlete; a good student who worked hard in the classroom. It is just a very, very sad day for me and our basketball program to lose a person of his caliber.
Now with Hernandez ruled ineligible, the Hurricanes are left with only seven players on scholarship and Larrañaga is left to figure out how to fill the void Hernandez is leaving behind.
The NCAA has been criticized for years for its rules and enforcement policy. In the interview, Setchen said, “There are rules and they are supposed to be followed and I respect that, but at the same time, they need to rewire the way things are done so that the rule violations are not so common and not so easy to come by. The arbitrary nature of the throwing out penalties to me is a problem that needs to be addressed for sure. The process is another thing that needs to be reviewed because I feel a lot of it is done in the darkness and they just come give you an answer and it is like how did you get there.”
After this whole ordeal, there is this ongoing debate to how student athletes should be viewed. The NCAA describes them to be amateurs who are not allowed to receive payments independent of the university for which they play for. More and more players are beginning to speak out against this as the universities and cable television networks are profiting millions off of student athletes, but they themselves do not receive any monetary reward for their hard work besides their scholarships.
Unfortunately, Hernandez’s college career was cut short, but this will serve as an example for how the NCAA treats students athletes and handles violations. Hopefully, changes are made within the NCAA.