A Big Tease
Will Jason Richardson play for Michigan State?
The citizens of Michigan had been waiting for several years to see Jason Richardson don a Michigan State uniform, and when he finally did, he did not disappoint them. The coltish 6'6" freshman, a McDonald's All-America last season at Arthur Hill High in Saginaw, put on a dazzling air show during Midnight Madness last Friday night at the Breslin Center. During one foray into the ether, Richardson twirled 360 degrees and brought the ball between his legs before flushing a one-hander.
Alas, the performance may turn out to have been nothing more than a cruel tease. The NCAA's Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse declared Richardson ineligible in late July, having determined that an English class he took during his freshman year at Saginaw's Nouvel High, which he attended for one year before transferring, could not be counted toward the 13 core-curriculum classes required for freshman eligibility. Officials at Arthur Hill and Michigan State were shocked by the decision, since they had all been under the impression that Richardson had satisfied his requirements. Upon further review, Michigan State learned that someone at Arthur Hill had mistakenly typed in the name of a different (and approved) course when making up Richardson's transcript. The clearinghouse caught the error only because it had both the Nouvel and Arthur Hill transcripts.
In late August the Spartans persuaded the NCAA to grant Richardson partial qualifier status, which means he can accept scholarship money and practice with the team but can't compete in games. Now the school is awaiting the result of its appeal to the NCAA's Initial Eligibility Committee to fully reinstate Richardson. The Spartans expect to hear a final decision from the NCAA in the next two to four weeks.
Richardson's case brings to mind that of former New Mexico forward Kenny Thomas, who thought he had satisfied his core requirements but was declared ineligible by the clearinghouse in the summer of 1995. Thomas engaged the NCAA in a protracted legal battle—-he played for three seasons under a court-ordered injunction before sitting out the first five games of his senior year as part of a negotiated settlement—but Richardson says he has no intention of following that route if his appeal is denied. "If it's not meant for me to play, I'll just work on getting ready for next year," he says.
Losing the opportunity to play for a national championship contender would seem to be a harsh fate for an athlete whose only transgression was committed not by him but by academic professionals. "It's just a tough pill to swallow because the kid really didn't do anything wrong," Spartans coach Tom Izzo says. "I understand we need standards, but everything isn't black and white."
Missouri's New Coach
Snyder Learns A Lesson
His voice hoarse, his Hugh Grant hair flopping jauntily, Quin Snyder dropped onto a sofa in his new office at Missouri last Saturday, visibly jazzed that practice was finally under way. Six whirlwind months after the 32-year-old Snyder left his top assistant's job at Duke to replace the retired Norm Stewart, it is hard to say who's learning more—the first-time head coach or his new team, which will junk Stewart's antediluvian ball-control system for one based on defensive pressure and an up-tempo offense.
Snyder is overjoyed by the warm reception he has gotten from his players and the Show-Me State's fans, but he hints darkly that not everybody has been so welcoming. Last month Missouri reported itself to the NCAA following a published account that the mothers of two top recruits, Detroit-area high school stars Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson, had joined their sons on a chartered plane for a campus visit (Though the women say they paid for their seats, the NCAA is investigating whether they paid full value.) When asked what he has learned from the episode, which probably won't result in sanctions, Snyder chooses his words carefully, accepting responsibility but subtly pointing a finger at rivals whom he believes were the source of the story. "It has raised my awareness about certain competitive elements in the industry?" he says. "It's also made me aware of how much attention we have to pay to all the details on every level, and that begins with me."
Big Continent's Comeback
Loyal, but Maybe to a Fault