UCLA prized recruit Shabazz Muhammad was ruled ineligible for the Bruins’ season-opening game Friday night against Indiana State, and his future the rest of the season is uncertain.
“Muhammad is not eligible to compete in (Friday’s) game due to violations of NCAA amateurism rules,” the NCAA announced in a release.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerreo said the school would file an immediate appeal.
“First, things first, we’re looking to challenge the decision in the appropriate manner and we’ll do that,” Guerrero said. “Right now, the only determination that was made. . . was that there were violations of amateurism.”
The Bruins also had the option of seeking reinstatement, and will likely do so if the appeal is denied.
Muhammad has been under investigation by the NCAA since the beginning of this summer. The NCAA came to a determination that he violated the NCAA’s amateurism rules by accepting travel and lodging during three unofficial visits to two NCAA-member schools, the NCAA statement said.
Two of those visits were to North Carolina and Duke and were paid for by a family friend, a financial advisor, who is the brother of an assistant coach of Muhammad’s high school team in Las Vegas.
The NCAA does permit for such benefits, but they must come from someone who has a pre-existing family relationship.
Muhammad watched from Bruin bench Friday night as his teammates won, 86-59, over Indiana State.
UCLA coach Ben Howland said of the ruling against Muhammad: “It’s very disappointing. I feel terrible for Shabazz because he is a great kid and has had a phenomenal attitude in dealing with this review by the NCAA
“We were very optimistic that he was going to be cleared today, so we are very disappointed for him. We’re hopeful that it’s something that is going to be worked out in the near future.”
Added Guerrero: “We believe the decision is incorrect and unjust to Shabazz. UCLA will expeditiously pursue its options to challenge this determination.”
UCLA is hopeful for a quick resolution in determining Muhammad’s status for future games. If he does get reinstated by the NCAA, there will be a specific penalty in which he has to repay the amount of money given and serve a suspension.
Coming out of his school Muhammad was the No. 2 player in the nation and was highly recruited by the premier colleges in the nation before choosing UCLA. Howland is anxious to insert him into the lineup.
“When he is able to play,” the coach said, “he’s going to add a big boost for us. He’s a guy who can really score, really shoot, and he’s a great rebounder.”