May 23, 2010

Was New Mexico right to clear Negedu?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask members of the coverage staff for their opinions about a topic in the sport. We have two questions this week - one Saturday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Former Tennessee player Emmanuel Negedu announced last week that he was transferring to New Mexico. Negedu missed this past season with a heart condition, and doctors at Tennessee refused to clear him to play again. So did doctors at Indiana, which had been a potential landing spot. New Mexico has cleared him. Your thoughts on the situation?

It's not easy to comment on someone's health issues. I'm not a doctor. I'm not Emmanuel Negedu. I'm not Emmanuel Negedu's doctor. They're the only ones who have the clearest picture of Negedu's health and how it relates to his ability to play basketball. If two schools (Tennessee and Indiana) say Negedu can't play, that would be enough for me to say it's not worth the risk. These aren't academic standards we're talking about here, where an athlete can take a troubling transcript from school to school to find someone who will accept him. This is someone's life. Maybe Negedu's brush with death was a fluke. Maybe the measures taken will ensure it won't happen again. But what happens if Negedu's heart problem wasn't a one-time occurrence? I'm shocked any institution would take that kind of risk.


I sure hope this works out well. I applaud Negedu for still wanting to play. But doctors at two schools refused to give him medical clearance, which makes this extremely scary. You can be sure the decision by New Mexico to let him play wasn't made lightly, but it still makes you wonder if Negedu simply would be better off forgoing basketball and getting started on the rest of his life.


Clearing Emmanuel Negedu to play is an irresponsible and risky move for New Mexico. While some may applaud the Lobos for giving Negedu a chance to pursue his dream, the reality is that the school could face a hefty lawsuit if anything were to happen to Negedu on the court. Even though one doctor cleared him to play, it should also be remembered that two other schools refused to do so. There's a reason for that. As much pressure as there is to win, it's the job of a coach to put his players' health and well-being ahead of anything else and to not take any chances in situations such as these. This decision gives New Mexico a bad look. It makes the Lobos appear careless and, quite frankly, desperate.


I don't have the medical expertise to say whether New Mexico should have offered Emmanuel Negedu a scholarship, but that Tennessee and Indiana wouldn't clear him to play certainly offers cause for concern. We all would love to see Negedu complete his college career on his own terms after he suffered cardiac arrest after a September 2009 weightlifting session. The incident nearly killed Negedu; he had to be revived by a Tennessee trainer. Negedu certainly is an outstanding prospect. He averaged 7.2 points per game as a freshman before his medical issues prevented him from playing. And I'm sure New Mexico officials exercised due diligence before deciding to pursue Negedu, but this still seems to represent quite a gamble for both the player and the school. We certainly all will be rooting for Negedu. Perhaps we should be praying for him as well.


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