Impermissible benefits have become a numbing part of the NCAA’s role in college football (and college athletics in general), but what happens when a player who’s received impermissible benefits is adopted by someone who’s already been disassociated from a program for giving them out?
You get Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and his adoptive family, Kevin and Tiffany Lahn.
Floyd, a junior defensive tackle for the Gators, was suspended two games and forced to repay nearly $3,000 in benefits he received last year “for living expenses, transportation and other expenses” by “an individual not associated with the university.” Turns out, that individual was Lahn, according to a story from the USA Today.
“After his suspension, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was adopted, at age 20, by the man who provided those benefits,” the paper writes.
Lahn, a vice president of a commercial real estate company, was actually disassociated from South Carolina in April of this year for his role in providing benefits to Gamecocks student-athletes. South Carolina was hit with three years probation, as well as scholarship and recruiting restrictions as part of the NCAA’s punishment.
Given that bit of information, the USA Today pondered if Lahn’s adoption of Floyd “could be a loophole used in the future to provide benefits for elite athletes.” You can read the entire story HERE — it really is a solid write-up by Rachel George — but we thought about the possibility of an impermissible benefits loophole too. Basically, the NCAA answered the question for us:
John Infante, a former assistant compliance director at Colorado State and Loyola Marymount and author of the Bylaw Blog, says the NCAA likely wouldn’t want to get involved in assessing the legitimacy of adoptions and trying to determine whether they have been done to formalize an existing relationship or to find a way around the rules to provide benefits.
“It’s between a rock and a hard place, because, on one hand, you let this go, if you’re saying this is the one thing we’re not going to touch — parents and legal guardians — well then you’ve established a way around the rules where AAU coaches, runners, agents, boosters just adopt kids and start providing for them,” he says. “You can basically do whatever you want.”
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn says examinations are made on a case-by-case basis. “If a student-athlete is adopted, from that point forward the individual would be treated as any other parent,” Osburn said in an e-mail.
We’ve criticized the NCAA often here at CFT, but if the Association doesn’t look too deep into Floyd’s arrangement you won’t hear a peep from us about it. Yes, it’s possible that the Lahn family is using adoption as a loophole to provide Floyd with what the NCAA would normally consider to be impermissible benefits, but is it likely? When you really think about it, doesn’t that sound like a high risk, low reward situation?
Let’s assume for argument’s sake there is an ulterior motive on the part of the Lahn family: that they hope by giving Floyd lavish gifts they’ll be rewarded with a hefty return on investment later when Floyd, considered to be a high draft prospect, is signing his pro contract. For one, that’s a lot of finger and toe crossing. Floyd could get hurt, fizzle out or blow his money Vince Young style by buying his entire team “Death by Chocolate” at the Cheesecake Factory five days a week for three years.
Even if the Lahn family networks Floyd with a top agent — that would be an NCAA violation — that’s not going to prevent an athlete from a “broken and poor family” from knowing how to manage his finances, which may or may not involve them. And all in the name of providing permissible benefits?
Secondly, the Lahn family is clearly well-off. They have a 6,500-square-foot home on a golf course, they take trips to Miami and they gave Floyd a Ford Explorer as a gift. Nobody’s eating Top Ramen and hot dogs in the Lahn household — not that there’s anything wrong with that part of a balanced diet. And guess what? Floyd isn’t the only college athlete eating from the silver spoon his family provides. He might be in the minority, but he’s not on an island.
But putting business decisions aside, sometimes you just have to consider the process of adopting a kid of any age.
“There’s no ulterior motive on either part. It was just that they bonded really well,” Steve Gordon, a close friend of both Floyd and Lahn, told the paper. “(Adoption is) a huge load. You can’t do it for an ulterior motive other than that you actually have love and concern for the kid and their well-being.”
Well, you can, it just has to be one hell of a good motive. For the Lahn family, it would appear adding a member to their family is good enough.