Column: Confusion surrounds 'hardship'

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Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 10:24 pm

When Long Island, N.Y., native J.J. Moore signed his national letter of intent to play college basketball at Pitt, Panthers fans saw the 6-foot-6 forward as an interesting gamble.

Moore’s bullish physique and his ability to jump made Pitt’s most analytic fans wonder if he would find a role in head coach Jamie Dixon’s fundamentally sound motion offense. 

Moore spent three years at Pitt, and never found a role.

After a junior season in which he came off the bench and was given less playing time than in his sophomore season, Moore decided to transfer to a school that would be able to accommodate his unorthodox style of play. That school was Rutgers, which is knee-deep in a rebuilding process after the hiring and firing of former Head Coach Mike Rice.

Over the weekend, Moore appealed to the NCAA for immediate eligibility at Rutgers by way of a legislative relief waiver, commonly referred to as a “hardship waiver.” Hardship waivers are last-resort appeals for players wishing to be excused from NCAA transfer rules because of “extraordinary or extenuating circumstances warrant.” 

But let’s be honest here: Moore isn’t facing any hardships. 

Under NCAA rules, all transfers must sit out one season before they are permitted to play for their new team.

Moore pleaded family-related reasons for his appeal, claiming that Rutgers provided necessary accessibility to his wife, daughter and grandfather. According to Facebook, however, his wife and daughter live in New York.

For those of you who relentlessly speak out against the NCAA, pay close attention:

Months before Moore’s appeal, fellow Rutgers transfer Kerwin Okoro, who spent his freshman year at Iowa State, desired immediate eligibility, as well.

Unlike Moore, Okoro’s 72-year-old father died of a stroke in 2012. Less than a year later, his 28-year-old brother also tragically passed away as a result of colon cancer.

Following the chain of funeral processions and his freshman season in the Midwest, Okoro desired to move closer to his family, who live in Bronx, N.Y. He chose Rutgers and appealed to the NCAA for a hardship waiver in August.

He was denied a waiver and is now forced to sit out a season.

Clearly, there was a hardship involved in Okoro’s situation.

The list continues in a less dramatic fashion: Former Pitt guard Trey Zeigler was cleared by the NCAA for immediate eligibility with a hardship waiver after transferring from Central Michigan. The NCAA’s reason: His dad was fired as coach at Central Michigan.

Everyone’s alive.

Brooklyn native, Rutgers transfer and current Pitt junior Derrick Randall was also granted immediate eligibility after requesting a waiver. The NCAA’s reason: His former coach threw basketballs and swore at players.

Everyone’s alive.

I know virtually nothing about J.J. Moore’s personal life, but I do know enough to say that all signs point to his transfer being purely a basketball move. 

Last winter, Moore and his wife, Kristina Matos, openly expressed their distaste for Jamie Dixon over Twitter. Following the 2012 season, Dixon was reportedly “trying to help [Moore] find a school” and “trying to help him find the right place,” but that’s beside the point. In Moore’s three years at Pitt, I did not see him or his wife openly expressing concern to move closer to home.

Moreover (no pun intended), Moore’s Instagram name is nbabound44moore. Let’s be honest, though: Unless he is magically granted four more years of collegiate basketball very soon, Moore will not be playing basketball for a living. 

He would do nothing but benefit from sitting out a year at Rutgers. If his development is slowed down a year, he could even have a shot at playing overseas.

The bizarre situation seems to create a seesaw effect between players with personal problems and players who wish to gain starting spots on teams by switching to new schools, and the players with the bona fide personal problems seem to be left in the dark.  

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