The NCAA declared Muhammad ineligible to play after an investigation determined that he had accepted improper benefits in the form of travel expenses and lodging for unofficial visits during the recruiting period to North Carolina and Duke.
UCLA coach Ben Howland said on a teleconference that the NCAA appeals committee is expected to hear the case on Friday and that the school hopes to have a decision shortly thereafter.
“At this time, I’m optimistic and hopeful that everything is going to work out,” Howland said. “That’s about all I can say. Hopeful is a big part of that.”
If the NCAA rules in Muhammad’s favor, he likely would become eligible immediately. But if the appeal is denied, Muhammad would have to go through the reinstatement process to regain his eligibility.
The highly touted recruit has been under investigation since this summer, but less than two hours before the Bruins’ season opener last Friday, the NCAA announced Muhammad was ineligible to play.
Dan Guerrero, UCLA athletic director, said last week the ruling was incorrect and unfair to Muhammad.
During warmups before Tuesday’s overtime win against UC Irvine, freshmen Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Tony Parker wore “Free Shabazz” T-Shirts. Howland said that public display by the first-year players was a one-time show of support.
“This is their friend. They love their friend,” Howland said. But “that’s not something we’ll do in the future.”
Muhammad will continue to practice with the team as he awaits the NCAA’s decision. The Bruins hope to have Muhammad available next week in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They will face Georgetown on Monday and then either No. 1 Indiana or Georgia on Tuesday.