David Price, NCAA vice president for enforcement and student-athlete reinstatement, says that foreigners who compete for U.S. schools must follow the same guidelines as their domestic counterparts: They may not sign a contract with a pro team, receive money for playing or play on a team with pros. But Price says that money for expenses is permitted as long as it's "reasonable" (whatever that means), and he admits that it's not always easy to determine what qualifies as a contract. Almost all European clubs require their players to sign an agreement that gives the clubs the players' rights—even if they don't get paid. "When I came to college, I signed a letter of intent," says Sormonte, who is from Montpellier, France, and was ultimately suspended for 23 games (three of which will be on next year's schedule) because he played in three of the Aztecs' first six games this season before the NCAA learned that he had signed a contract and received nearly $4,000 in per diem money while playing for a Montpellier club. "A scholarship pays for my schooling and room and board here. In France it's exactly the same thing. But the name of the contract is different."
The situation is so muddled that even Dean Smith made a mistake. Two years ago he told Evtimov that it was safe for him under NCAA rules to play for Pau-Orthez in France while fulfilling his French military obligation. The NCAA disagreed and suspended Evtimov for 18 games this season. Sormonte and Meurs say they know of other foreign players competing in Division I who would be suspended if the NCAA knew more about those players' backgrounds. Price concedes that the process hasn't been "evenhanded," but he sees no other choice but to plow ahead on a case-by-case basis. "The only alternative is not to do it at all, which is unacceptable," he says.
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