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BRANDON: NCAA needs to take another shot at UP player's case

Rulings have left transfer Kaylie Van Loo on the basketball sideline


VAN LOOSaturday could have been — and probably should have been — the first day in the rest of Kaylie Van Loo's athletic life. The day she got to step onto the basketball court for her first time as a member of the Portland Pilots. The day she put a forgettable first year of college in Idaho behind her.

Instead, Van Loo sat at home on campus while the rest of the Pilots made the trip to Fresno State for a non-conference game.

Instead, both she and the school continued to serve their apparent punishment for following NCAA rules.

And the NCAA, which has dealt with her case in its cold, electronic-only fashion and apparently without complete understanding or any compassion for the situation, is in effect continuing to cost a good, worthy student-athlete an entire year of competition.

Here is the history:

Van Loo, an all-state prep basketball player and highly ranked javelin thrower, graduated from Glencoe High in 2012.

She signed with the University of Idaho for track and field and started at the Moscow school in fall 2012. She did not practice or play basketball at Idaho — and she never competed in track, because even before last spring, she had grown unhappy there and wanted to return closer to home.

She asked Idaho for permission to talk to the University of Portland about playing basketball for the Pilots — and she was denied, for reasons unknown.

While disappointed by Idaho's decision, the Pilots chose to abide by the NCAA bylaw that says "if permission is not granted the second institution shall not encourage the transfer."

The women's basketball staff was instructed by Ryan McAlvey, UP assistant athletic director of compliance and student services, not to contact Van Loo or anyone associated with her and let the appeal process play out.

The Pilots told her that they had to abide by both the letter and spirit of the rules and couldn't talk to her.

Van Loo immediately requested an appeal, and Idaho exceeded the NCAA's 15-day requirement to hold a hearing on whether to uphold or overturn the denial to speak to UP.

Van Loo, a 5-9 guard, wound up leaving Idaho in the spring. In late April, it was announced that she would join the Pilots basketball program in the fall but may or may be eligible for the 2013-14 season.

The uncertainty at the time was because UP officials had decided to file a waiver that would have allowed Van Loo to begin playing last weekend, after the first semester. UP proposed that the NCAA take into consideration the circumstances that prevented her from being able to enroll last spring and consider that time part of the required year in residence that basketball transfers must serve.

The NCAA denied UP's appeal on Oct. 25.

The school appealed, with additional arguments and information challenging the rationale used to deny the waiver.

On Dec. 9, UP heard from the NCAA again — and the answer was still no, with the same online language explaining its decision, which indicates that the governing body might not have even looked at Portland's latest appeal.

The NCAA ruling says, in essence, that Van Loo waited to long to seek her transfer to Portland and that she needed to be enrolled at UP by Jan. 18, 2013 in order to be eligible for the first game after the fall semester — which was last Saturday at Fresno State.

But Van Loo never was told that she could have gone and applied and enrolled at UP for the 2013 spring semester while the appeal process was ongoing. All she knew was that she was denied contact with the Pilots.

Portland could have processed her application quickly as a transfer student; she had taken an official visit to The Bluff while in high school and her scholastic standing was strong enough to merit an academic scholarship.

UP could have, and would have done that … except that Pilots administrators knew that, technically, they did not yet have the green light to have contact with her.

Why Idaho denied Van Loo's request to talk to Portland is another issue — not directly related to the merits of her case, but interesting to ponder.

Often, schools will deny permission to have contact with a conference rival or with a team they play regularly, but neither is the case with Idaho and UP women's basketball.

Van Loo is able to practice with the Pilots basketball team this season. She cannot, however, play in a game — unless this is made right, and soon.

The NCAA still could make this right.

It would take someone at the NCAA willing to look at what truly happened, to see it from all sides and consider what Van Loo had to deal with in terms of the knowledge she was given to make decisions about her own young life.

An NCAA 11th-hour ruling in her favor would allow her to suit up for the Pilots this season — although maybe still not in time for the start of the West Coast Conference season (UP's first WCC game is Dec. 28 at the University of the Pacific).

A favorable, reasonable and valid ruling still would come too late for Van Loo to play in the Dec. 21 crosstown rivalry game against Portland State. But at least she wouldn't lose an entire year for no reason other than that the complicated process got stalled and she received incomplete advice about what options she had to follow her desire to play basketball and be with family and friends back home.

"We feel that Kaylie should be eligible to play for the University of Portland women's basketball program this season and are frustrated that the decisions in this case have differed from similar past precedent cases recently decided by the NCAA," UP athletic director Scott Leykam says.

"The rationale for the denial," Leykam says, "was that circumstances were within the control of both UP and the student-athlete, when in fact, handling the situation any differently would have put our athletic department in violation of NCAA rules.

"This is clearly a case where both the student-athlete and the institution are being penalized for following the proper NCAA transfer protocol."

The NCAA has been granting more and more exceptions that enable transfers — such as University of Oregon guard Joseph Young, who came from Houston this season — to play immediately for their new schools.

Van Loo got to Idaho, soon realized that her love was basketball and not track and field, and decided that in her heart she wanted to attend a school in her hometown.

What could have, should have been a slam-dunk transfer and granted waiver turned into an air ball by the NCAA, and the organization needs to take another shot at this case as soon as possible.