Clearing Up the Wall Questions

I am here to clear up all your questions regarding John Wall's eligibility.

Just kidding.  What I am really trying to do is sort out relevant from irrelevant, fact from fiction.  Here are the facts that we know:

  • Brian Clifton was a registered FIBA agent sometime in 2007-2008 while coaching D-One Sports AAU team out of North Carolina.  At some point in 2008, he became unregistered as an agent.
  • John Wall played for D-One during the time frame that Clifton was a registered agent.
  • According to this article from ESPN, Wall playing for Clifton while he was a registered agent constitutes accepting illegal benefits from an agent.
  • The NCAA eligibility arm (not the enforcement arm) is investigating, and has been for months.
  • As far as UK is concerned, Wall is cleared to play, but SEC commissioner Mike Slive has confirmed to ESPN that there are "eligibility issues" concerning Wall and Renardo Sidney.  Sidney's case is not related to Wall's as far as I have been able to determine.

These appear to be the relevant issues:

  • The NCAA is trying to determine the monetary amount of benefit Wall may have obtained from Clifton while he was a registered agent.
  • If Wall is found to have accepted more than $101 of benefit, he must pay all of it back, plus he may be required to forfeit his eligibility to play in a minimum of 10% of the scheduled games for Kentucky.
  • It is possible (but seems very unlikely) that the circumstances could be severe enough that Wall would be forced to forfeit his amateur status (i.e. an agreement with him or the family that is prohibited, etc.)
  • The feeling is that the sanction will be minimal, but that is not a fact, but an informed opinion.  Take it for what it is worth.

These issues seem to be irrelevant, as I understand the situation:

  • John Wall took two unofficial visits to Kentucky.  Since the school does not pay anything in unofficial visits, the only way this could be relevant is if Clifton or D-One (which Clifton apparently owns) paid for them during the time Clifton was registered as an agent.  That's how I understand it at least.
  • John Calipari has no relationship to this problem.  The issue would have been identical no matter where Wall went.

Finally, just a small point -- Ryan Kelly, a Rivals 5* Duke signee, was also a D-One player on Wall's team.  Unless Kelly joined D-One after Clifton was de-certified as an agent, it would seem that he suffers from the same difficulty as Wall, although no one has mentioned that so far that I know of.  There may be other NCAA players involved, but I'm not sure.

At this point, I am chilly about this whole situation.  This looks like unethical behavior by Clifton to me, and I don't see any problem with Wall unless he was aware of Clifton's status as an agent, which would greatly complicate matters in my opinion.  High school players learn at an early age that they may not associate like that with agents, and if Wall was somehow aware of Clifton's status, the sanction could be more severe.

This points up a really big problem in the AAU -- there should be no way a registered agent should be allowed to own or coach an AAU squad.  It is an obvious conflict of interest for the AAU to allow agents to coach, and it jeopardizes the future of the young men under their charge.  In this case, it looks like Clifton may have jeopardized the college futures of every player he coached during his stint as an agent, because the amateur status of all these athletes should now be in question.

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