The story detailed how Floyd, who had a tumultuous upbringing, was mentored in high school by Lahn through his charitable organization the Student Athlete Mentoring (SAM) Foundation. The organization, based out of Delaware provides mentoring for high school athletes who have difficult home lives. Their primary mission is to provide SAT and ACT tutoring and preparation as well as to help with scheduling college visits and camps.
Through the organization Lahn developed a relationship with Floyd that carried on when he moved to Gainesville to attend and play football for the University of Florida. In the process, it was determined by the NCAA that Lahn had provided impermissible benefits to Floyd by helping with living expenses when he first arrived in Gainesville. Floyd served a two game suspension last season and was required to pay back the $2700 it was determined he had received to a charity of his choice.
Shortly after the NCAA ruling Lahn and his wife had decided to try to adopt Shariff who at that point was legally able to sign off on it without parental consent. His legal guardian, his great-grandmother, was involved in the process according to Lahn. The adoption, according to an email Lahn sent to the USA Today,
“was not something we had planned, but it’s been a natural fit.”
This case which has shades of the Michael Oher story which had been made into a best selling book and popular movie called “The Blind Side”, is curious mostly because of it’s timing. Coming shortly after the NCAA ruling on extra benefits. the story casts a curious light on the motives of Kevin Lahn. While not directly accusing Lahn of dishonesty or of trying to skirt NCAA rules, it does raise the specter of illegality or of exploiting a supposed “loophole” in the system.
To Lahn’s credit, his close friend Steve Gordon, was quoted in the article saying,
“There was no ulterior motive on either part. It was just that they bonded really well. (Adoption is) a huge load, you can’t do it for an ulterior motive.”
“He’s doing what’s in the best interest of that kid.”
The article does make a somewhat valid point that there is a possibility, however minute, that unscrupulous agents or “handlers” could take advantage of this “loophole”. Considering the responsibility involved and the involvement of family court judges and guardian ad litem’s in the adoption process, however, we are not likely to see a rush of college age adoptions among star athletes.
This story likely would not have nearly as much traction if Lahn had not previously been found to have provided impermissible benefits to athlete’s at his alma mater South Carolina and actually been disenfranchised from the school as a result. The investigation that uncovered the extra benefits Lahn had provided to Gamecock track and field athletes resulted in sanctions against the University of South Carolina athletic program which included three years probation, scholarship reductions, and limitations on recruit visits.
Additionally, the report casts a shadow over potential “extra” benefits provided to a couple of teammates who were invited to a lavish birthday party Lahn threw for Shariff. The party took place at an expensive resort hotel and on a $3 million dollar yacht and involved teammates Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley as well as former teammate Jonathan Dowling.
It’s yet to be determined if any violations occurred as a result of the lavish birthday party, but regardless, none of these benefits could have been provided by his birth parents or his legal guardian.
So the question remains what, if anything, can or should the NCAA do to ensure that situations like this do not arise out of unscrupulous ulterior motives. If one can “simply” adopt a student athlete will there be a rush to adoption agencies by agents and handlers trying to get their feet in the door to provide “legal” benefits by which they might profit in the future?
Realistically, no. It’s preposterous to think that this situation or any other might arise out of purely selfish or profitable motives. Lahn might be “that” guy who never got to be an athlete and longed to be near star athletes, but that alone is not reason to cast aspersion on the adoption.
It might seem a little odd, certainly, but consider this. Shariff has no problem with it meaning he must feel there is at least a minute father-son relationship there. Additionally, courts and court personnel who have to thoroughly investigate all aspects of a potential adoption even if the adoptee is a legal adult, did not raise any red flags. The idea that a sportswriter, in the guise of an “investigative reporter” has uncovered some grey area attempt to skirt NCAA rules is ridiculous at best, self-serving at worst.
If anything this report brings to light the ridiculousness of the NCAA’s attempt to regulate student athlete conduct. In an attempt to pretend that these high profile athletes are still “amateurs” and “student athletes” and ignore the billions of dollars they generate for the schools and the NCAA in general, they hide behind the myriad rules and regulations that “protect” athletic integrity. Sooner or later they will be forced to realize that there are millions of gray area loopholes that can be exploited, so hopefully sooner they will end the hypocrisy and admit that student athletes like college students in general need spending money and by giving them standard meaningful stipends they will reduce the incentive to take impermissible benefits.
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