Column: NCAA needs to stop dragging its feet on Mitchell decision

Despite routing Iowa State 87-54 Saturday night, the Missouri men's basketball team received no points from its most underachieving recruit.

He didn't even step onto the court.

Instead, Tony Mitchell watched the Tigers play on television, biding his time in Dallas while the NCAA drags its feet deciding if he can participate in collegiate athletics.

Scouting website rated Mitchell a top 15 prospect nationally, easily coach Mike Anderson's biggest coup during his tenure in Columbia. Optimism abounded last summer after the Pressey brothers and Ricardo Ratliffe joined the recruiting class.

Mitchell's final hurdle was graduating high school.

He nearly cleared it.

When Mitchell reportedly flunked a math exam, preventing him from graduating on time, a Dallas television station exposed his academic record. It claimed he had 102 unexcused absences in his only year at Pinkston High, and suspiciously made up three years' worth of credits while attending an unaccredited basketball academy in Florida.

Nevertheless, Mitchell could reportedly retake the exam, graduate during the summer, and arrive in Columbia in time for the fall semester. But that's when the NCAA set up a roadblock and everything, well, stopped. Since Mitchell failed his test, both he and Missouri have heard little regarding his eligibility.

The NCAA recognized the suspicion surrounding Mitchell's academic record, and rightly so. It is unclear what classes Mitchell took in Florida, and why he missed so many classes in Dallas.

But it's ridiculous that it has taken this long.

The problem lies not with the NCAA's decision to investigate, but rather the investigation itself. If, after seven months, the NCAA can't prove anything, then Mitchell deserves the benefit of the doubt and should be able to play.

With the NCAA, Missouri and the Dallas Independent School District all mum to several media outlets, we do not even know if Mitchell in fact graduated from Pinkston. One would think that if Mitchell did not, we would not even be having this discussion. Missouri has admission standards, and being a high school graduate is among them.

Meanwhile, Mitchell has been sitting at home, perhaps working out and staying in shape, but certainly not attending classes at a four-year, research institution such as MU.

Was it likely Mitchell would stay at Missouri for four years and receive his degree? No, but it was a possibility (see: Andrew Luck). A college degree benefits students for the rest of their lives. The NCAA even touts the fact that the majority of student-athletes pursue professions outside the world of sports.

So why leave Tony Mitchell wondering what to do with his life? Why leave the University of Missouri wondering what to do with an open scholarship just collecting dust?

Why did the NCAA make quick decisions regarding eligibility concerning Cam Newton, Josh Selby or Terrelle Pryor (all of whom can play)? There is a double standard in collegiate athletics, and it's hurting the college game. The NCAA rules more quickly on student-athletes who provide more exposure and revenue.

I can't stand politics when people get greedy. On paper, it's a great idea to entrust a few with carrying out the ideals of many. Our government is built upon this premise.

Now toss money into the equation.

When the NCAA starts to look after its own self-interests, fans, players and universities are the ones who realize the consequences.

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