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The NCAA won't let an Army vet play college basketball because of his high school grades

Fix this, NCAA.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional Practice Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

One of the problems with the NCAA is an overreliance on rules that hypothetically make college sports a better place, enforced in situations that actually make them worse.

Meet Isaiah Brock, a freshman in a college basketball sense but a veteran of the U.S. Army. His time in the military changed him as a person, and Oakland basketball coach Greg Kampe hopes to change him as a basketball player and student. But Brock’s bad grades from high school have made him academically ineligible to play this year. The story from the Detroit Free Press:

Late last week, the NCAA informed Oakland that Brock was academically ineligible to play this year.

All were surprised. Months of applications and letters had explained how Brock, 22, had changed over his four years of military service, possessing far more discipline than the roughly 2.0 student he was in high school.

“I just believed that it would happen,” Brock told the Free Press this week, after finding out that he can be on scholarship at OU this year but cannot play basketball until next season. “Then I kept my belief in it. But when they denied me, I was like, wow.”

Brock wasn’t much of a student back in the day, but has changed a lot. For one, he was 6-foot-nothing in high school. Now he’s 6’8.

The hopeful Golden Grizzlies forward served in mortuary services in the Army, taking care of the bodies of fallen servicemen. While in Kuwait, he was spotted when a group of college basketball coaches visited on a tour of American troops. Oakland’s Kampe offered him a scholarship.

Brock got a good score on his ACT and has done well in summer school classes. But by the book, he’s academically ineligible because of his grades from half a decade ago.

The idea behind making players with poor grades academically ineligible is a good one. College athletics should be about growing players as students as well as players. But in practice, it often doesn’t work. It leads to teachers and schools inflating grades to keep players eligible. And it leads to people like Brock — potentially good students in unique situations — getting punished.

Brock could be one of the best stories in college basketball, a man whose service, dedication, and sport have shaped him into a better human. Hopefully, the NCAA comes to its senses, analyzes Brock’s situation on a human level rather than seeing him as a basketball-playing transcript.