National Collegiate Athletic Association investigations are a sad fact of life in Division I men's basketball.
But recruiting violations and eligibility arguments are supposed to be the province of bigger schools, the UNLVs, the Kentuckys or the North Carolina States of the world.
No longer. This afternoon, Athletic Director Bill Cleary and NCAA liason Andrea Wickerham will appeal to the NCAA Eligibility Committee in an attempt to restore junior college transfer Arturo Llopis's eligibility to play basketball.
The NCAA ruled Llopis, a native of Valencia, Spain, ineligible after reports surfaced that his education was subsidized by the Spanish professional team F.C. Barcelona, which Llopis played for as an amateur.
The case, however, is not so black and white. The central issue at stake is what it means to be an amateur. Here, Spanish law differs from NCAA rules, and Llopis fell victim to the translation.
"In Spain, the law stipulates that any player under 20 years of age is classified as an amateur," Wickerham said.
"Arturo did not sign a contract with the team, and he never hired an agent. It was clearly his intention to remain an amateur," she added.
The NCAA sees it differently. By-law 12.1.1-e states that a player cannot receive money or funding, directly or indirectly, from a professional sports organization. Bylaw 220.127.116.11 states that no player can play on a professional level and retain his amateur status.
Llopis clearly violated these statutes. No one disputes that.
Harvard's argument for reinstatement of eligibility rests on the motive behind Llopis's actions.
"We're focusing on the spirit of the law, and not the letter," Harvard Basketball Coach Frank Sullivan said. "We thought everything was in order."
"He just didn't know," Wickerham said.
Llopis did not return repeated phone calls made to his room yesterday.
What's An Amateur?
In Spain, basketball is organized comparably to the many tiers of baseball in the United States. A corporate unit consists of the "senior" professional team, and several layers of "junior" teams.