The Siena athletic department broke the news on Twitter earlier today. “NCAA does not change ruling on Imoh Silas or Lionel Gomis. Each will serve academic year in residence, barring new information.” @SienaSaints said.
The NCAA felt that not enough new information was provided that would reverse the NCAA’s current ruling on the student-athletes’ eligibility. However, the Siena compliance office may present new information and is continuing to search for information that may reverse this decision.
Lionel Gomis (Dakar, Senegal/Blair Academy (N.J.)) and Imoh Silas (Lagos, Nigeria/Holderness School (N.H.)) were classified as student-athletes who fell under a new rule in August. Rule 18.104.22.168.1 states that a student-athlete who delays enrollment full-time in college is charged in his eligibility for every year between graduating and enrolling full-time in school. Students have five years or a similar international equivalent to complete high school and become eligible to play.
Gomis was initially ruled to have only one year of eligibility during the 2012-13 season on September 2nd. Siena appealed and provided new documentation and received a reversal of that ruling on September 13th.
“Our compliance staff and basketball coaches have done a great deal of work assembling documents and gathering information that led to Lionel earning back two years of eligibility,” Siena Athletic Director John D’Argenio said of the successful reversal of the ruling on September 13th.
However, that ruling mandated that both student-athletes sit for one year – a mandatory redshirt. Both student-athletes went to prep schools after coming over from Africa and were re-classified at their prep schools. That reclassification extended their high school education beyond the five-year window that the NCAA rules state. The NCAA told Siena that a waiver could be granted if Siena can prove that extenuating circumstances led to delayed enrollment.
It was reported by Andy Katz that Gomis dropped out of high school for two years after his mother died because his family did not have enough money to pay for private school. Gomis eventually found the Sports for Education and Economic Development Foundation (SEEDS) which works to connect schools in the United States with African student-athletes. The foundations main program, the SEEDS academy, gives Senegalese boys a place to live, study and train all year. The program currently has 22 students enrolled.
It is SEEDS policy to not discuss NCAA rules.
“Our compliance personnel work diligently to ensure SEEDS’ students comply with the rules and regulations of the NCAA and all academic institutions,” Brian Benjamin, the Director of U.S. Operations for SEEDS, said.
Gomis won’t be the first player from Senegal to be on the Saints roster. Mousse Diop (class of 2007), a member of the Saints for two seasons, came from Senegal to play for Siena by way of transferring from junior college. Silas will likely be the first Siena basketball player from Nigeria.
Thanks goes out to Siena’s Sports Information Staff, the NCAA Bylaw Blog‘s John Infante for his help, theSports for Education and Econonomic Development Foundation (SEEDS) and their Director of U.S. Operations Brian Benjamin as valuable resources on this story.