NCAA denies eligibility waiver for Jose Perez this season | WVU Mountaineers


MORGANTOWN — You’ll pardon Bob Huggins if he makes a deletion from his musical playlist today, hitting the delete button on the 1981 hit song “Boy From New York City,” now that the NCAA has officially turned down Jose Perez’s appeal to gain eligibility this year.

Too close to home right now, having been sung, by of all groups, 10-time Grammy winners The Manhattan Transfer.

The start of the lyrics even fit all too well. You could almost hear Huggins singing it:

Ooh wah, ooh wah cool, cool kitty

Tell us about the boy from New York City

Ooh wah, ooh wah c’mon kitty

Tell us about the boy from New York City

He’s kind of tall

He’s really fine

Some day I hope to make him mine, all mine

The last thing Huggins wanted to hear was anything about a boy from New York City who was a transfer basketball player from Manhattan College, yet that was pretty much all anyone wanted to talk about before the West Virginia Mountaineers’ game with Baylor.

At just about 5:45 p.m., basketball SID Bryan Messerly walked through press row and announced that the Mountaineers’ own boy from New York City had been denied a participation waiver and would have to sit out this season.

It wasn’t exactly anything that surprised Huggins. In the end, it bothered him.

He said he didn’t know the “whys and wherefores” of the decision. What he did know was that Perez was a good student, was trouble to no one, and that the NCAA was taking away a chance to fulfill his dreams.

“The truth of the matter is, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. They don’t do what they are supposed to do so they don’t get sued.

“This could take away a chance for a young person to succeed in life,” Huggins said. “He’s a good kid, a good student, a good guy. We’re not talking about Moses Malone here. Jose was a small college player. I don’t understand.”

When Manhattan’s Coach Steve Masiello was fired about two weeks before the season was about to begin, Perez decided he wanted to leave the program and felt he could be granted a waiver because of the situation.

He had been the team’s leading scorer the previous season and was just the kind of veteran scorer who would fit in perfectly for the Mountaineers, who jumped on his recruitment immediately.

There was a problem, however, everything in the rule book seemed to work against Perez getting immediate eligibility.

First of all, he had started his career with two years at Gardner-Webb, transferred to Marquette where he played only 10 games, then moved on to Manhattan, where he averaged 16.7 points a game last year and was named the pre-season Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

He used two waivers in the process and the rule book clearly states that a player should have only one, but this was a very special circumstance.

Unable to enroll before the second semester, Perez had to wait without working out with the team. After enrolling, and with the NCAA Committee for Legislative Relief dragging their feet, Perez waited and waited. Finally, they turned down his application but said he could work out with the team and could have a full year of eligibility next season.

WVU appealed, sought immediate eligibility and believed they had a strong case for it.

Just Friday, as the word was leaking out that a decision had been made and would be announced on Wednesday, Huggins sounded off about the situation.

From the words he used and the tone of his voice, you kind of suspected he knew that the appeal would not be granted.

“First of all, I’d be shocked (if it got cleared by Friday] and that it’s taken them as long as it has taken them, which is totally ridiculous,” Huggins said.

Saying that the committee’s lack of action was “totally ridiculous” was hardly a way to win them over, so you know Huggins was expecting the worst.

He had, strong feelings about the situation, not for his team but for the player himself.

“You’re messing with the fact that this kid has done everything humanly possible for him to do and it hadn’t changed,” Huggins said.

Certainly, the matter was out of Perez’s control, out of Huggins’, out of WVU’s and they had done nothing but try to help their team, their fans, their state without breaking rules.

But the NCAA had the rules on their side and did not want to set a precedent, even if this is an era when a player can transfer if someone looks askant at him. The transfer portal has been abused since it started, changed the very culture of college sports and altered recruiting philosophies.

Somewhere in there if former WVU basketball player Teddy Allen has been able to work the system the way he has, Perez surely deserved better. Allen started at WVU, transferred after a year to Wichita State, sat out a year, then was kicked off the team the next year.

He went down to junior college, came back and played for Nebraska and then at New Mexico State last year before putting his name into the NBA draft.

And, get this, when he went into the NBA draft he still had a year of eligibility left.

The boy from New York city also has a year’s eligibility left, but it isn’t this year and that is crushing to him — he’s 24 years old — and it’s crushing for the Mountaineers, who did all they could to get him eligible.

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