It's official: The NCAA will not "free" Enes.
The NCAA announced Friday that it denied the University of Kentucky's appeal seeking to restore the eligibility of freshman basketball player Enes Kanter.
"We are obviously disappointed in this decision and find it unfortunate that a group of adults would come to such a decision regarding the future of an 18-year-old young man," UK Coach John Calipari said in a statement released by the school's athletic department. "This has never been about our program or the University of Kentucky. It has been about the wishes of Enes and his family to have their son educated in the United States. It is a shame that Enes had to endure the constant speculation and misinformation that was furthered by certain media organizations in the smear campaign conducted by his Turkish team."
Earlier this season and earlier Friday, Calipari voiced his support if Kanter's family were to use the United States legal system to seek a restraining order temporarily blocking the NCAA ruling.
But in the statement, Calipari sounded a non-confrontational tone.
"The silver lining is that Enes will always be part of this team," he said. "My job will be to prepare him for his entry into the NBA Draft, which this decision by the Association will likely necessitate. Enes will always be a part of our family and I plan to be by his side in the green room whenever he is drafted."
NBAdraft.net projects Kanter as the fifth player chosen in this year's draft. Draftexpress projects him as the fourth player selected.
As for Kanter's pursuit of an education, the NCAA ruling does not prohibit UK from continuing to give him a scholarship. He just cannot compete or practice or travel with the team as a player, the NCAA statement said. "The university has indicated it plans to designate Kanter as an undergraduate student-assistant coach," the NCAA said. "In this capacity, Kanter could perform limited coaching duties with the team."
UK had asked the NCAA to re-consider Kanter's eligibility in light of the surprising ruling that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton could continue playing even though his father acknowledged trying to sell the son's services to Mississippi State.
UK argued that Kanter was unaware of any financial arrangements set up with the professional team based in his native Turkey that he played for in three seasons.
The NCAA, which had received banking and housing records from the pro team, Fenerbahce Ulker, that substantiated the compensation Kanter received, rejected UK's argument.
UK president Lee T. Todd Jr., who is retiring at the end of this academic year, criticized what he saw as an "inconsistent" application of the rules.
"I'm very disappointed in what appears to me to be an inconsistent decision that leaves an outstanding young man without any recourse," Todd said in a statement. "It's very disappointing that this young man, who along with his family intended to do everything the right way and in compliance with the rules, won't be able to pursue his dream of playing at UK. ...
"As an NCAA board member, I continue to be puzzled and confused by the reasoning behind this decision, which seems to be an inconsistent and arbitrary application of the rules. It is unfortunate and disappointing that Enes and his family have been negatively impacted by this process. It is certainly a matter I will continue to try to understand and question in my remaining time on the board as part of an organization whose stated purpose is to put families and student-athletes first."
In response to Todd's criticism, NCAA spokesman Chuck Wynne said, "President Todd is certainly entitled to his opinion on the matter, but his own university agreed that Kanter received more than $33,000 above actual and necessary expenses. The amateur certification process is clear on the subject of prospective student-athletes who have played as professionals. There is no ambiguity in the process or the bylaws."
It was well known in recruiting circles that Kanter faced serious challenges to becoming eligible. At least two prep school coaches, including Kentucky native Steve Smith of the powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, refused to add him to their teams in 2009 because of concerns about his amateur status.