As many as 14 Howard University football players have been declared ineligible to participate in their team’s upcoming season opener as part of an ongoing NCAA investigation into their possible improper use of textbook allowances.
“Right now, it’s not a distraction,” Bison coach Gary Harrell said
Thursday. “We understand the situation. Whatever the ruling is, whatever the NCAA’s plan is, we have our plan as well.”
Neither the school nor the NCAA would disclose the names of the players involved or the exact number of games they would be sidelined. Penalties could range anywhere from one to three games, but the players in question can still practice while they try to regain their eligibility.
Howard opens its season on Sept. 1 when it hosts rival Morehouse at RFK Stadium.
Harrell said the list of ineligible players could include sophomore quarterback and reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year Greg McGhee and senior linebacker Keith Pough, the preseason MEAC Defensive Player of the Year.
In March, Howard temporarily withheld a number of student-athletes competing in spring sports as it began an internal investigation into possible NCAA violations. The university cancelled several games over the following days, but reinstated all the athletes a week later with the promise of continuing to review the matter.
The current eligibility issues center around the football team, although one women’s volleyball player is also affected, according to a school’s spokesperson.
Representatives from Howard and the NCAA declined to discuss the matter further, citing the ongoing investigation.
This past spring, a Howard softball player told the Washington Post that it was commonplace for Bison athletes to pocket the difference between the cost of their books and their textbook allowance. Schools are allowed to pay for books required by scholarship athletes for their classes. The institutions can provide the athletes with the cash to pay for those books if the amount is equal to the cost of the books.
The NCAA considers players found to be profiting from textbook purchases as having received an impermissible benefit. Those players would be deemed ineligible by the college sports governing body until they paid back the money they made from the transaction. They could then be withheld from further competition, depending on the value of the improper benefit.
Howard finished 5-6 in 2011.