Shabazz Muhammad. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)
The family of highly touted UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad released the following statement exclusively to The Times on Tuesday regarding the NCAA's decision Friday to declare Muhammad ineligible for a violation of amateurism rules:
"Shabazz’s family is very distressed by the NCAA’s recent decision and the manner in which it was announced. Shabazz and his family have been cooperating with the NCAA for well over a year. Earlier this year, the NCAA asked Shabazz and his family not to reveal to each other or to the press facts related to the NCAA investigation. Despite the many untrue rumors which were circulating on the Internet, Shabazz and his family dutifully did what they were told. In order to entice Shabazz’s family and others to cooperate, the NCAA repeatedly gave assurances that it would keep details of the investigation strictly confidential. As recently as November 2012, the NCAA promised that it would not issue a Press Release.
"Last Friday, the NCAA released a Press Release which not only was wrong in its conclusions but which also inaccurately portrayed the investigation process in this case. For over a year, the NCAA has known all of the relevant facts related to its ruling last Friday. Prior to the unofficial visits in question, Ron Holmes and Benjamin Lincoln received approval from NCAA (through its member universities) for Mr. Lincoln (who has had a continuous close friendship with Shabazz’s family since 2007) to pay for airline tickets and hotel rooms. In 2010, Mr. Holmes openly and honestly revealed to the NCAA the source of the payments on the NCAA’s compliance form. Shabazz’s family is now faced with the situation where they are concerned that any attempt to tell more of their side of the story will result in further punitive action, as Shabazz is still under the mercy of the NCAA. Shabazz and his family will continue to honestly cooperate with the NCAA in the hopes that Shabazz soon will be allowed to play basketball at UCLA."
[Update: 3:49 p.m. PST: The NCAA sent the following statement to The Times:
"We stand by our previous statement. Further, the NCAA staff has remained true to their statements to the Muhammad family, and we are committed to resolving the remaining matters as quickly as possible.
"As we have said, the NCAA staff requested specific documents on July 31 to assist in the evaluation of Muhammad’s eligibility. However, the NCAA enforcement staff did not receive the majority of the requested documents for review until September 25, followed by more information on October 10, and the staff was granted access to additional critical information on November 1. On November 9, it was determined violations occurred, which was based on facts that were agreed upon by the university.
"It is important to note that NCAA amateurism rules are in place so that when student-athletes step onto the court, they are competing against other student-athletes who have met the same standards."]
As of Monday, UCLA had not appealed the NCAA's decision to declare Muhammad ineligible, a school official confirmed.
The school is waiting for the NCAA to provide more information about Muhammad's status, which could come this week, according to people close to the situation who are not authorized to speak publicly because the case is ongoing.
The 6-foot-6 swingman could sit out 10 games before he is cleared to compete for the Bruins, according to guidelines the NCAA uses to establish eligibility.
Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said Friday that UCLA would appeal.
Muhammad's status is not expected to change in time for him to play in the Bruins' next two games. The Bruins face UC Irvine on Tuesday and James Madison on Thursday. Both games are at Pauley Pavilion.
The NCAA has determined that Muhammad accepted travel and lodging from a financial advisor during unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina. That advisor, Benjamin Lincoln, is the brother of an assistant coach at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High, which Muhammad attended.
Muhammad's family has said that Lincoln is a friend — and the NCAA does allow for financial aid to be awarded to an athlete provided that it's from someone with a preexisting relationship.
But Guerrero said Friday that the NCAA determined the Muhammad family's relationship with Lincoln "would not have allowed ... the family to receive the benefits that they got."