Before we really get into this, I need to make one thing clear: until Baylor confirms or denies the factual report out there, we are not dealing in a world of absolute truth. Instead, we're going to be talking about reasonable inferences from what has been said, what the most likely story is, and going from there. As always, this story could and probably will change as more information becomes available.
That being said, when the official Baylor roster started getting its yearly makeover yesterday, several people on several different boards realized almost immediately that one name was missing from it-- that of RB Silas Nacita, aka "Salsa Nacho" to the Baylor faithful and the sporting world at large. We assumed at the time it was a simple oversight and that we'd have heard if something happened to one of our most visible players. It appears that we were wrong. From David Smoak on Twitter:
Getting word #Baylor RB @Salsa_Nacho is no longer on the team roster. Tweets from teammates angry with the NCAA. More details to come.— David Smoak (@DavidSmoak) February 25, 2015
This was the tweet that really set things off this morning, but it wasn't the first mention of the story, at least not from what we can tell. Baylor DE Shawn Oakman, a man of relatively few words on Twitter, had already been at work:
Yesterday,the first day of spring ball a player on my team was released from the team for accepting a place to live b/c he did not have the— Shawn oakman (@PA2BU) February 25, 2015
Means to do it his own,he was poor and needed help he has been sleeping on friends floors just to have a chance to earn a scholarship #NCAA— Shawn oakman (@PA2BU) February 25, 2015
Who is the #NCAA to take someone's dreams from them b/c they can't afford to live— Shawn oakman (@PA2BU) February 25, 2015
While I do not know for sure that these tweets are referencing Nacita, it seems overwhelmingly likely that they are. To my knowledge, Baylor doesn't have that many extremely disadvantaged football players, and Nacita's financial troubles both before coming to the school and after have been well-documented. His resilience and joy in overcoming those struggles is one of the things people like most about him. Going back to Smoaky:
Another note on @Salsa_Nacho, he isn't on roster and can't practice until he works out some "issues" on eligibility, but he can return.— David Smoak (@DavidSmoak) February 25, 2015
Eligibility issues can mean a lot of things, but the rumor appears to be that Nacita stayed with someone without paying rent, and that is the genesis of the NCAA's ire. Assuming this story is true (I have no reason to doubt Oakman's interpretation, but again, I don't know for sure), this definitely sounds like one of those stories where the NCAA is more concerned with projecting power than wielding it appropriately. Nacita is not a scholarship athlete at Baylor University. He's not getting athletic scholarship money for his room and board or his meals, and he's not getting a stipend. Beyond that, his schedule as a football player likely means he can't hold down a regular job like normal students, exacerbating the problem.
Honestly, I'm not sure what the NCAA expects athletes to do in this situation, where they don't have an athletic scholarship but are working hard to get one, beyond just not being athletes in the first place. If he was a regular student, nobody would care where he slept or if he paid for it. But because he's a football player and not on scholarship, he's held to a higher standard? Unless it's the school paying for it surreptitiously in an effort to skirt the NCAA's scholarship limits, why do they even care?
One last note from Smoaky:
And, I get impression there's no doubt #Baylor coaching staff will welcome @Salsa_Nacho back with open arms if his eligibility is cleared.— David Smoak (@DavidSmoak) February 25, 2015
As will we all. We'll keep you posted on this situation going forward.