After serving for four years in the U.S. Army, a Maryland veteran has been denied eligibility to play Division I basketball by the NCAA via an unusual ruling.
Isaiah Brock graduated from Forest Park High School in Baltimore in 2011, and like many his age, he skipped attending any college or university prior to joining the armed services.
In his case, Brock joined the U.S. Army's 54th Quartermaster Mortuary Affairs Company in early 2012, where he was quickly deployed to the Afghanistan and, later, Kuwait. His company's main job was to retrieve the bodies of fallen U.S. soldiers from combat zones, process their wounds, and then ship the bodies back home where they could be put to rest by their families.
CBS Sports reports that Brock played an instrumental role in retrieving and returning close to three dozen fallen soldiers.
In August 2015 during the Hardwood Classic, while still stationed in Kuwait, Brock also met multiple college basketball coaches. (The Hardwood Classic is "an event put on by the Troops First Foundation at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait that connects soldiers with basketball coaches and culminates with a tournament.") Brock impressed coaches to the point that one of them, Oakland University's Head Coach Greg Kampe, offered to help him enroll and earn his college degree after being discharged.
According to CBS Sports, Kampe wanted Brock to join Oakland's academics and basketball programs, saying:
"I just thought maybe I could bring him to Oakland and give back and help this young man get his education," Kampe said. "He's got the GI Bill. But that doesn't cover him like a scholarship would. And I thought him being around my players would just be unbelievable from a leadership perspective. I wanted my players to meet him and be around him. And if he ever played basketball, that would be awesome, too. So I told him I couldn't promise playing time. But I told him I could give him an opportunity to experience college basketball."
Brock started by taking online classes while still deployed. CBS Sports writes that of the four classes that he took before the Fall 2017 semester, Brock earned three B's and one A. But when he tried to become eligible to play basketball for the Division I program, the NCAA denied him because of his old high school grades from nearly five years before.
CBS Sports writer Gary Parrish explains, "To be clear, Brock has a qualifying standardized test score. And he's shown the ability to do college-level work. It's just that the NCAA is focused on a high school transcript from five years ago and using it to refuse to allow Brock to play this season."
Since Brock went to a school that Oakland's athletic director Jeff Kanya describes as not "focused on college preparedness as a high school," the NCAA is punishing him. All of this, despite the fact that Brock is completely eligible to play collegiate sports based on his current grades.
Parrish writes that the NCAA should give Brock a waiver to be allowed to officially join the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies Basketball Team.
Kanya tells Parrish that the NCAA can still make this right, explaining, "Isaiah went and fought so that organizations like the NCAA can exist, and he did so in a way that he's now a decorated military veteran.. It's a great story. And hopefully, it has a happy ending. Hopefully, common sense wins the day."