National college football writers react to NCAA rejecting Rutgers’ Drew Singleton’s waiver request

Rutgers linebacker Drew Singleton’s battle with the NCAA has become a talking point at the national level in college football.

The “College Football Enquirer,” a podcast hosted by Yahoo! that ranks among the most popular college football-specific shows in the country, discussed the situation on their latest episode released Monday (discussion begins at the 37:20 mark).

Host Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! introduced the topic with a CliffNotes version of the situation, prefacing it with a quip: “We thought the NCAA just pretty much had given up, but they’re still there.”

A brief summary of the situation:

Singleton originally decided elected to forgo his final year of eligibility and pursue professional football following the 2021 season. That decision arrived in November, when the Scarlet Knights lost their regular season finale to Maryland, dropping them to a 5-7 record and leaving them without a bowl bid. With the season seemingly over, Singleton signed with an agent in December and began preparing for the 2022 NFL Draft, including the standard practice of accepting money from the agent to pay for training.

Then Rutgers earned found itself in an unprecedented situation. Texas A&M dropped out of the Gator Bowl due to COVID-19 issues, and because the Scarlet Knights had the highest APR of any non-bowl team in the nation during a select period, they were in position to replace them. Rutgers accepted the invitation nine days before the game was scheduled to kick off.

Singleton accepted the opportunity to play in the game and represent Rutgers against Wake Forest, something a number of his fellow NFL Draft hopeful teammates understandably declined. He went on to hurt his ankle against the Demon Deacons, an injury that significantly impacted his draft prep, which he “began in a (walking) boot,” according to Schiano.

Singleton recovered in time to participate in the Scarlet Knights’ pro day in March, but went undrafted. Because of this, he paid the money he received back to the agent and petitioned the NCAA to reinstate him and allow him to use his final season of eligibility this fall to help out a young, thin linebacker corps at Rutgers.

After going through the story, Wetzel threw it to his co-host Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, asking him if he feels sympathy for Singleton (”yes, I do,” Forde responded) and if he thinks the linebacker should be able to play.

“It is so purely like the NCAA that it does seem like they hand out waivers like candy and any sob story will work and you can transfer as many times as you want, that sort of thing. So it seems like a disconnect here,” Forde said.

“A couple of things I will say, though: he sprained his ankle, is that really going to knock you out of the draft? If you sprain your ankle in December? I suspect that his draft status was not great to begin with. I have a hard time believing this was the kind of thing that torpedoed his draft stock. Secondly, I’ve seen people say ‘well, the NCAA wants these people to play in the bowl games!’ No, the NCAA doesn’t give a crap. The TaxSlayer (Gator) Bowl wanted him to play, Rutgers wanted him to play, so this isn’t the NCAA wants him to play but then punishes him for playing. It’s just the NCAA punishing him for playing. You would like to see them back up all the rhetoric that ‘hey, we are in it for the athletes and we want them to have the best experience they could have. This doesn’t seem to jive with that. But I would also like to see, read, hear what the final ruling is on this waiver before I know exactly what the heck this decision was about.”

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Ross Dellenger, a fellow Sports Illustrated staff writer who recently joined the show as the third co-host, jumped in with the big-picture view of the situation.

“This is a great example — and we have plenty of them — of this weird era of college sports we’re in right now. We’re transitioning from amateurism to professionalism but we’re not all the way in professionalism and you still have these little rules. At some point, whether through Congress or the courts or college sports’ own volition, this is going to be legal, where a player gets to enter the draft and come back. Players have agents now anyway. You can say they can only have marketing agents, but they have agents now with NIL. And let’s just be frank: they probably always had agents, especially the high-up guys. Again, and there’s a lot of examples of it, we’re in this weird time in college sports where college sports is still clinging onto these little amateurism rules and in some cases like this one, enforcing them but not enforcing others. It’s just a bizarre time. It’s sad for the kid. You feel for him and his family. What’s it going to hurt giving him another year?”

Wetzel then gives his take.

“If they were hardcore like they used to be, you can sit there and say ‘the moment you sign with that agent, let alone take money, you know you’re out.’ But nowadays, everything is so confused, so I don’t know. The NCAA definitely does not care about a bowl game, nobody cared about the TaxSlayer Bowl, they were 5-7. I guess the only part of it is the confusion of your season is over and then it isn’t because of bizarre standards. That’s about the only one. But Rutgers will survive.

“(The NCAA) is still doing something I guess, but it seems like a weird one to make sure the Rutgers linebacking corps isn’t as experienced.”

Forde wraps up the topic by capturing the essence of the feeling in Piscataway.

“(The NCAA hasn’t) put that villain hat on in a while, they’ve just been steamrolled in every situation. Now, hey, what do you know? They’re still capable of pissing off a fanbase out there, at least.”

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Brian Fonseca may be reached at bfonseca@njadvancemedia.com.

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