Oklahoma linebacker Mike Balogun will have his day in court this coming Monday. That’s when his civil suit against the NCAA will be heard by the Cleveland County (OK) Circuit Court.
But, in the end, this could be a win-lose situation for Balogun.
The NCAA decertified Balogun — stripped him of his eligibility — earlier this month, but the LB received a temporary restraining order that has allowed him to continue practicing with the Sooners.
At the heart of this legal entanglement is Balogun’s participation in a semi-pro football league before coming to Oklahoma. Per NCAA rules, if Balogun competed in that type of competition after his 21st birthday, he would lose a year’s worth of eligibility for every 12-month period he played semi-pro ball.
Upon enrolling at Oklahoma in 2008, the NCAA had certified Balogun’s eligibility.
A brief mention of Balogun’s semi-pro experience during the national championship game this past January, however, prompted a compliance officer from Florida State to contact the Big 12 via email about Balogun’s eligibility. FSU was going through a similar situation with one of its players, which prompted the heads up from the Seminoles.
The Big 12 forwarded the FSU concerns to Oklahoma, which responded that they were certain Balogun was eligible per NCAA guidelines. That information was relayed back to FSU, which prompted the school to phone OU directly with a box score that seemed to dispute the Sooners’ stance.
OU then contacted the NCAA, and the organization promptly launched an investigation that will ultimately lead both sides to a court appearance.
Now, even if Balogun’s attorney is successful in getting the judge to side against the NCAA and have his clients eligibility certified, he may never see the field in a Sooner uniform again.
Oklahoma could face repercussions from the NCAA if the NCAA appeals the verdict and it’s overturned. NCAA Bylaw 19.7 allows the NCAA to punish a program if an ineligible player has been allowed to play because of a court injunction.
Seeing as Oklahoma is already on the NCAA’s probationary radar, the Sooners might not want to poke this particular dog with a stick.
The one thing Balogun may have going for him in his case, however, is the fact that an Ohio judge ruled in favored of Oklahoma State baseball player Andrew Young earlier this year in a similar case, stating that the bylaw is overreaching.
Regardless of any recently set precedent, though, there seems to be mounting evidence that Balogun did indeed participate in a semi-pro after his 21st birthday.
Tulsa World got their Google on, and came up with the following:
Balogun turned 21 on Sept. 28, 2004, and several online resources indicate he competed in organized football after that date:
A January 2005 press release from the Maryland Marauders shows Balogun was MVP of the NAFL2 championship game in November 2004.
An online game recap from the November 2005 NAFL championship game shows Balogun made seven tackles.
A game report on the NAFL Web site shows Balogun also made a fumble recovery in that game.
SemiProFootball.org lists Balogun as an NAFL all-star in 2005.
A July 2008 report on the Web site Gazette.net (the Maryland Gazette/Maryland Community Newspapers Online) reports that Balogun also played for the Prince George Jets, a winter semi-pro league, in 2005-06. The article quoted several of Balogun’s former coaches and reported that he was out of football for three years and played for three years in the semi-pro or amateur level before attending junior college.
A game report on the Web site PiranhaFootball.net shows Balogun played for the Marauders in a July 2006 game, recounting his near-touchdown on a fumble recovery.
Now, I’m no attorney, nor did I sleep with one at a Holiday Inn Express, but if any one of the above statements are proven to be factual, Balogun’s case is over.
As is his career at Oklahoma.