The NCAA on Friday denounced comments by Hofstra basketball coach Tom Pecora as "inappropriate and inaccurate'' after he criticized the organization Thursday following its decision to declare junior college transfer Brad Kelleher ineligible for the rest of the season.
The NCAA said an application-registration form Kelleher signed with a pro team five years ago in his native Australia was tantamount to a contract.
Kelleher, a 6-foot junior guard, was projected to start this season but has remained on the bench while the NCAA considered Hofstra's appeal. Pecora said Kelleher saw limited action and was not compensated for his appearances with Brisbane, a former member of Australia's National Basketball League, after his high school graduation.
"There are kids playing in the Big East who had their own reality shows,'' Pecora said after the NCAA's decision Thursday. "There are kids in the Southeast Conference who admitted to taking money from agents, and my guy didn't do anything. He completed an application to play in the league. It's a league that everyone who lives in Australia plays in. They are trying to say by completing an application that application is a contract.''
He added, "[The NCAA is] basically a non-profit organization that's run amok and is now corrupt. They'll do anything to take care of their BCS members who have a tremendous amount of power and juice. That is who they work for. I don't know if 'inept' is the right word. They are such hypocrites.''
The NCAA's response came after Newsday's request for further information on Kelleher's eligibility situation and Hofstra's reaction to the decision. Bob Williams, managing director of the NCAA's public and media relations staff, issued the following statement: "Coach Pecora's comments are both inappropriate and inaccurate. Brad Kelleher's eligibility is not finally determined, but a Division I committee that includes Hofstra's peers has sustained the finding that he signed a previous professional contract which makes him ineligible.
"Like any NCAA institution, Hofstra now has the opportunity to seek Mr. Kelleher's reinstatement from the NCAA. This process starts with a review by NCAA staff, and the university can also appeal staff decisions to the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, comprised of representatives from NCAA schools and conferences."
Hofstra expects the review to determine Kelleher's eligibility for 2010-11. The player was not made available for comment. Pecora was traveling and was not available to comment on the NCAA's statement.
The university said in a statement: "We disagree with the NCAA's inexplicable ruling that a registration form that provides for no compensation somehow constitutes a professional contract, and share coach Pecora's indignation. Earlier today, Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz sent a personal letter to the NCAA president expressing Hofstra's extreme disappointment with the decision and in the NCAA's failure to provide an explanation for the basis for this apparently arbitrary ruling.''
Pecora's ire came at a time when the struggling Pride, with injuries to Chaz Williams and David Imes, could have used Kelleher in the lineup.
"This kills us," Pecora said. "We are dressing seven scholarship players. [If] we get this kid back, [then] there's no rush with the other two . This guy was supposed to play 35 minutes a game for us. He was supposed to be a starting guard who would have had a tremendous number of minutes.
"He's a wonderful kid. He said, 'Coach, I never took a penny from anyone. I had a full-time job when I was playing. They called me once in a while to play. I wasn't a star, I was a kid.' It's criminal what they have done to this kid.''