A Disturbing Story in Waco
The story of Baylor running back Silas Nacita gets more confusing with every new development. On Wednesday, Nacita, a junior walk-on at Baylor, was released from the team after reportedly accepting housing from a home town acquaintance that allowed him to have a roof over his head instead of continuing to be homeless. Initially, Nacita reported that the NCAA had ruled him ineligible, but recently reports have stated that it was Baylor that took the action to release him from the team. However, that point doesn’t really matter.
The only thing that matters is that a junior in college, who had previously been sleeping on the floors of friends’ apartments, was kicked off the football team for accepting a place to stay. He did not accept this gift from an agent, but from someone he knew from home. Nacita is not a future first round draft pick – he’s just a walk-on student that is trying to play football while getting an education. His acquaintance back home is not an agent that wanted Nacita to sign with him out of college, just a kind person who no longer wanted to see Nacita homeless.
Like I said earlier, it does not matter whether it was Baylor or the NCAA that made the final decision to remove Nacita from the team. The fact of the matter is that the NCAA and it’s dictatorial set of rules is flawed – and power hungry. In 2013 Boise State had to literally beg their fans not to pay for housing for their defensive end Antoine Turner (who was homeless at the time). Turner would have been declared ineligible for accepting “benefits” which, to me, is pathetic and incredibly small-minded of the NCAA.
Keep in mind that players not on athletic scholarships don’t receive any kind of room and board benefits. For Nacita, that meant sleeping on floors, and taking pictures of pages of books in the bookstore so that he could study (amazingly Nacita still managed to make Academic All-Big 12). Accepting housing from an acquaintance should be the least of many concerns for the NCAA. A few years ago former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and several other Buckeyes received a suspension of five games for accepting about $1,000 worth of tattoos. Nacita was released from the team for accepting a bed to sleep on.
In the defense of Baylor, the university did warn Nacita that he could possibly be breaking the rules by accepting this place to stay. However, this, in no way, fully absolves them of their seemingly lack of caring for a “walk on.” Baylor did not (and still has not) request a special waiver from the NCAA to allow them to provide housing for Nacita, as Boise State did last year with Turner. Baylor’s athletic director, Ian McCaw, has stayed silent on the issue except to say that Nacita was removed from the team.
Baylor coach Art Briles at least has said that he would certainly welcome Nacita back to the team if a “remedy” can be made for his eligibility. Teammate and defensive end Shawn Oakman also said that he would welcome Nacita back to the team. He also asked the question, in a Tweet on Wednesday, “Who is the NCAA to take someone’s dreams from them [because] they can’t afford to live?”
Of course there could be more to the story to come. But if the facts stand as they are right now, the NCAA is going to have to take a deep look at how they handle walk-on athletes, especially those in financial need. The stories of both Nacita and Turner demonstrate that the ever present sword the NCAA wields of the heads of athletic programs, cause colleges and universities to worry more about maintaining eligibility and scholarships than the well being of their athletes. Student athletes are bound by incredibly strict rules that cause universities like Baylor to be cautious and cut players like Nacita out of fear of oncoming punishment. Hopefully, as time progresses, the NCAA will put more value in the quality of human life of their students than punishing technicalities.