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Simmons Says - Alabama officials drop ball

The absurdity of amateur sports governing bodies is once again in the national spotlight.

This time, the Alabama High School Athletic Association has put itself in the cross hairs by ruling high school senior and Rutgers signee Maori Davenport ineligible for the season. The decision to sit Davenport stems from an $857.20 check she received after playing for USA basketball over the summer in Mexico City.

Davenport was mistakenly sent the check, which was supposed to be reimbursement for lost wages due to her time leading the U-18 team to a gold medal. Davenport cashed the check, but repaid the total value a few months later when Team USA informed her school and the AHSAA that a clerical error had led to the violation of her amateur status.

Alabama officials deemed the payment to be in violation of state rules and made her ineligible for the year. In the last week, NBA players, former coaches and ESPN analysts – especially Jay Bilas – have tried to come to Davenport’s defense. 

Pleas to use common sense in enforcing the rule have fallen on deaf ears. Alabama officials put out a statement Monday defending the suspension, mentioning how nobody from the school – including Davenport’s mother, an assistant coach – reported the violation for 91 days. 

The rebuttal is worth your time if you want to read something that will make your blood boil.

Among the reasons listed as to why Davenport’s suspension should be held included:

• Her coach is a former member of the Board of Control, so she should know the rules.

• If they made an exception for this error, it could lead to people paying players. If caught, they could deny knowing and provide refunds to regain eligibility.

What a crock. 

It’s long past time where associations and governing bodies like the AHSAA, NCAA and others actually provide something of value. Their existence is for monetary gains. They just want to keep getting paid.

There’s nothing more irritating than watching an overreaching agency hide behind blanket cases when common sense is slapping them right in the face. Hiding behind a rule and just blindly enforcing it instead of understanding nuances and situations is cowardly.

All these associations that try to govern amateur athletics should have to adhere to one basic rule. It’s the Uncle Ben rule – with great power comes great responsibility.

The AHSAA showed it has plenty of power. Davenport may wait all season to see if they actually show some responsibility.