When it comes to discipline, the NCAA is a joke.
We’ve known this for a while now, but when the organization decided to showcase its ignorance and incompetence once again in the saga of Mitch McGary, I felt the need to shed some more light on the situation.
Full disclosure, Mitch McGary is a very important piece of the Michigan basketball team, a team I openly support. He was the breakout star of the 2013 NCAA tournament, where he helped lead the Wolverines to the National Championship game as a freshman.
McGary decided to skip a chance at the NBA to come back for his sophomore season. He was a preseason All-American, projected to be a top 10, if not top five player in the country. Unfortunately for McGary, he suffered a back injury that kept him out for all but eight games of the 2013-2014 season. It was a shame to see a kid that was destined to have a big season, bound for big money in the NBA go down with such a bad injury.
Without their best player, Michigan was able to survive and even thrive. McGary had been out since mid-December, and the Wolverines were winning the Big Ten, one of the toughest conferences in all of college basketball. They were cruising to a two-seed in the 2014 NCAA tournament, led by breakout sophomore Nik Stauskas. McGary was a spectator. His absence was an afterthought for many college basketball fans.
Then, in the middle of March, while hanging out with a few friends, McGary was offered some marijuana.
“I always turned it down,” McGary told Yahoo Sports. “But that night I didn’t.”
That’s not a lie, McGary had passed five drug tests just this year, even though he barely played.
Fast forward to March 28. Michigan is facing Tennessee in the Sweet 16 of the tournament. McGary, who had been sitting with his teammates all season in a full suit, dressed in uniform for the game. It was a motivational tactic, head coach Jim Beilein wanted to amp his team up, and he thought letting McGary suit up and warm up with the team before the big game might do just that. He was never going to play. Not a chance in the world.
Michigan won that game. After the brief celebration postgame, McGary was told he’d be subjected to a random drug test by the NCAA.
You see, during the season, drug tests are usually just administered by the schools. The NCAA gives some, but it’s only for performance-enhancing drugs. If you fail a school test, you’re subject to the school’s punishment. In postseason play, however, the NCAA takes over completely, and they test for any and all drugs.
As you probably guessed, McGary failed the NCAA test. The punishment for testing positive for marijuana the first time is suspension for an entire year. Marijuana, which is legal in two states, gets you a year suspension from NCAA competition.
McGary, who again, had not played for most of the season, was expected to come back to school for his junior year, remind NBA scouts just how great he is, and go pro following the 2014-2015 season.
Well, the NCAA made that decision easy for McGary. He’s officially declared for the NBA draft, projected as a second round pick coming off of his season-ending back injury.
“It’s just with the NCAA and their strict rules, they don’t show any mercy,” McGary said of his decision. “They take their things seriously.”
Allow me to point out that the NCAA decides to take seriously what the United States Federal Government seemingly could not care less about. Colorado and Washington are profiting off of marijuana. It will most likely be legal nationally in the next 20 years. In Ann Arbor, Mich. where the University of Michigan is located, a first time offense for possession of marijuana is a $25 fine.
But, the NCAA is forcing Mitch McGary out of college basketball.
To add insult to injury, the NCAA actually changed its policy on first time recreational drug offenses on April 15. It reduced the suspension to just six months. When Michigan and McGary appealed, trying to get McGary’s suspension cut in half, the NCAA promptly denied the request, saying McGary failed under the old rules, so he will serve a year.
Yes, I’m bitter that Michigan is losing a player that could help them make a run to a national championship. But, it’s ridiculous that over a one time recreational drug use, Mitch McGary will be departing the University of Michigan.
We knew the NCAA was out of touch, but this is just one more decision that makes the organization seem archaic in its decision making process, and it needs to change.