Dez Wells is unlikely to play college basketball this season, according to a former compliance officer who has written extensively about NCAA eligibility issues.
John Infante, who runs the NCAA’s Bylaw Blog, told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that Wells’ case did not meet the typical parameters the NCAA uses to grant immediate eligibility.
“I don’t think that’s in the cards,” Infante said. “Those waivers need to be a hardship outside of the athlete’s control. And that’s going to be a tough sell since he was expelled from school. That’s probably not going to be successful.”
Wells was expelled from Xavier last week after a sexual assault investigation, but the Hamilton County prosecutor announced Tuesday that Wells would not be charged with any crimes.
Prosecutor Joe Deters also released a statement asking Xavier officials to revisit the ruling against Wells. The university said its decision was final.
Wells visited UK’s campus Wednesday and was still in Lexington on Thursday. He could also visit Memphis and Maryland before making a decision early next week.
Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State and Loyola Marymount, said the NCAA would be unlikely to overrule a member institution when it comes to matters of discipline.
“It’s helpful that the prosecutor decided not to file any charges, but it’s still the judgment of the school,” he said. “And that’s not really an area where the NCAA goes in there and second guesses. So if the school has said, ‘He’s been expelled.’ That’s tough for the NCAA to go back in there.
“That would be the NCAA sort of telling Xavier that he never should have been expelled in the first place, and that’s going to be tough for the NCAA to be able to do.”
Infante contrasted Wells’ situation with the case of former college quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was kicked off the football team at Oregon and transferred to Ole Miss. The NCAA eventually ruled that, since Masoli was still in good standing as a student, he was eligible to play right away for the Rebels.
Basically, the NCAA gave more deference to the school than the athletic program in the Masoli case. Wells was actually disciplined by the university, not the basketball team, which would make his eligibility fight much tougher.
“The status of being able to transfer (and play right away) is based a lot on being an eligible student in good standing with the university, not necessarily being a member with good standing on the team,” Infante said. “You have a lot of cases where the kid might be kicked off the team or disciplined, but the school itself still says, ‘Yeah, he’s still eligible to attend the school.’ In that case, the NCAA kind of ignores the fact that he’s been kicked off the team.”
But UK (or whatever school lands Wells) still has the option of applying for immediate eligibility.
Infante said that school would prepare a waiver, likely with the argument that Wells was kicked out of school but never actually charged with anything. The school would then send its paperwork to the NCAA, which would typically make a ruling within 2-3 weeks. If the NCAA rules against Wells, the new school could appeal.
The initial waiver would be considered by staff members at the NCAA’s national office in Indianapolis. Any appeal would be heard by a committee of officials who work on college campuses.
Infante said Wells’ new school would likely reach out to Xavier in its attempt to secure his immediate eligibility. He said that could include a letter of support from Xavier’s athletics director or head of compliance.
But even with those materials Wells wouldn’t have a very good chance of playing this season.
“It would certainly be helpful if Xavier basically said, ‘Yeah, we support him playing immediately somewhere. But we have to stand by our decision that he’s not able to continue as a student here.’ Even with that, it’s still very much a long shot,” Infante said.
Infante said Wells would be permitted to practice immediately upon enrolling at his new school.
“As soon as he’s enrolled full-time as a student he can practice right away, whether he’s going to sit or apply for a waiver,” he said. “If he was enrolled in classes today, he would be eligible to practice this afternoon.”
Wells averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds during his freshman season at Xavier. The Raleigh, N.C., native was a four-star recruit coming out of high school.