A rule is a rule, after all.
Ask Donte Hill.
Hill, a former Clemson men's basketball signee and player, transferred to Old Dominion back in the fall of 2010 after Oliver Purnell unexpectedly left Clemson for DePaul. But not before he made an eight-minute appearance for the Tigers in a preseason closed practice scrimmage in November of what would have been his sophomore season.
Hill left the Clemson team before the season began, never played in a game, enrolled at ODU in January, and then sat out a season as a transfer.
Last week, Hill found out, courtesy of a unyielding, letter-of-the-law NCAA ruling, that he has already played his last collegiate game.
Hill chose not to participate in ODU's senior night festivities last March because he was confident that he'd win his petition to the NCAA not to count his eight meaningless minutes in a preseason practice scrimmage as a full season of competition.
On Thursday, he learned where the NCAA's head is at, so to speak.
Despite a precedent for leniency in similar cases, NCAA officials denied Hill's petition, ruling that the eight minutes he played in a closed-door preseason scrimmage in 2010 counted as an entire season of eligibility.
"Donte was clearly disappointed, but I think he had at least to some degree come to grips that this was the most likely outcome," said newly hired ODU coach Jeff Jones. "I feel bad for him. He's a very nice young man. He's done a great job in the classroom. Everyone at ODU I've talked to, talks about his character and his leadership. It's tough. It would have been great if the outcome had been different."
The NCAA rule in question states that "any competition, regardless of time, during a season in an intercollegiate sport shall be counted as a season of competition in that sport."
The NCAA makes an exception for true freshmen, but Hill was beginning his sophomore season at Clemson when he participated in the scrimmage and then decided to transfer.
"We'll miss that leadership and experience," Jones said. "I looked at him as a guy who would have made a contribution."
Meanwhile, we can assume that the NCAA will go on selectively enforcing the fine details of its rulebook on the one hand, while embracing 'deregulation' on the other - all while purporting to act in the best interest of student-athletes.