This post I read on Houston’s Clear Thinkers blog has me a tad bit miffed. I really don’t have a working knowledge of the NCAA or its power-mongering antics, but I happily defer to Mr. Kirkendall’s opinions with all enthusiasm. And the story he so eloquently shares reveals a lack of compassion by the NCAA the likes of which stun me. Has the NCAA achieved “a new level of absurdity”? Undeniably.
One of the most promising high school football athletes from Texas this year was murdered last weekend in Houston by a thug who thought shooting Herman Mitchell was an appropriate solution to a dispute they shared for some time over the ownership of a Pitt Bull.
Mitchell and three of his pals headed out last Friday afternoon to play a scrimmage game at Westfield High School. They got as far as their apartment complex parking lot when they spotted the tan-and-white dog in the possession of Emile “Rusty” Lewis, 19 and a Louisiana native transplanted to Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Mitchell and Lewis had been arguing for some time as to which of them “owned” the dog.
It probably won’t come as a surprise that Lewis has a rap sheet half a mile long of convictions for drugs and weapons charges since his arrival two years ago from New Orleans. A rifle was recovered in Lewis’s apartment at the time of his arrest and his right eye was swollen and beginning to turn black. Nevertheless, Lewis has insisted he had nothing whatsoever to do with Mitchell’s murder. Witnesses disagree.
Young Mitchell, a 6-foot, 200-pound All-District linebacker from Houston’s Westfield High, was eagerly looking forward to joining OU’s Sooners team on a full scholarship next year. Mitchell had received a myriad of offers from universities across the country, but turned them down in favor of his favorite team, the Sooners. Oklahoma fans were looking forward to having Mitchell join the Sooners, too.
One OU Booster Club member, Adam Fineberg of Houston, began a campaign through the OU Booster site with a goal of raising $10,000 to help Mitchell’s family pay for his funeral. He raised $4,500 within a matter of two days…and the NCAA shut him down. The NCAA declared Fineberg’s fundraising to be a rules violation against the Sooners, citing the funds as “illegal financial assistance” to Mitchell’s brother, who is a sophomore fullback at Westfield High, and that the fundraising on OU’s Sooner Booster site was improper.
From the Oklahoma Sooners blog:
Oklahoma fan asked to stop fundraiser for Mitchell: Just hours after Oklahoma football recruit Herman Mitchell was shot to death Friday in Houston, Adam Fineberg started raising money for Mitchell’s family. But after raising $4,500, enough to cover almost half the cost of Mitchell’s funeral, Fineberg stopped. An OU compliance officer told him his actions would constitute an NCAA rules violation against the Sooners… That money is considered illegal financial assistance under NCAA rules because Mitchell’s brother is a sophomore fullback at Westfield High School in Spring, Texas, and because Fineberg is an OU fan who attends Sooner football games and solicited donations through an OU fan Web site… OU spokesman Kenny Mossman said the an official with the university’s compliance office contacted Fineberg on Monday asking to him halt his fundraising efforts until the OU received a rules interpretation from the NCAA. That interpretation came Tuesday. “This is not a permissible expense for OU or someone who could be construed as an OU supporter,” said Mossman, an associate athletic director for communications. “We’re not trying to be the bad guys, but we have to play by their rules.”
So Fineberg was left with no alternative but to return all of the donations, which he did Wednesday morning.
Later on Wednesday, Oklahoma University filed a request for a waiver with the NCAA to allow the university to collect funds for Herman Mitchell’s family. “We will look at their waiver request quickly and very seriously,” NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said on Wednesday. Under the terms of the proposed waiver, any funds raised in excess of Mitchell’s funeral costs would be given to a charity to be designated by the Mitchell family.
I applaud Fineberg for his compassion, intent, and damned fine job. Mitchell’s family lives very modestly and not by choice, and gone forever is their dream of watching their son and brother achieve the greatness for which he was undeniably headed.
Houstonians have now established a local site for donations, free from any strings the NCAA could possibly attach:
Herman Mitchell Memorial Fund
c/o InvesTex Credit Union
230 Cypresswood Drive, Suite H
Spring, TX 77388.
The fund is wholly legit. Please call the credit union at 281-449-0109, or Toll Free at 1-866-449-0109 to confirm how your donations are tax-deductible, or for any other questions you may have.
I found a heart-felt tribute to Herman by Hubert Wilson (I presume to be on of Mitchell’s friends) on ILovePoetry.com:
The Promise of Herman Mitchell
Coveted greatness denied.
Rarest talent all had eyed.
Incredible fleet Mercury of the gridiron seemed to glide.
Moving elusively from side to side.
Stunned opponents could not decide.
Often to no avail as they ineptly tried.
No real answers for number eleven were deftly applied.
August Texas afternoon saw this seventeen year old’s gift brushed aside.
Nefarious heated argument and pride.
Damned families to sad events eternally tied.
Countless unfortunates more than cried.
Racking their very souls.
Evaporating hope deep down inside.
Agony far and wide.
Many dreams in that gloomy humid parking lot also died?
The family has announced Visitation services to be held Friday, August 31, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Integrated Baptist Church, located at 4910 Martin Luther King Blvd. in Houston (77021). Funeral services will be held Saturday, September 1, at 11 a.m. at the Windsor Village United Methodist Church, located at 6000 Heather Brook Drive in Houston (77085).