The “Blind Side” loophole?

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Florida Gator DT Sharrif Floyd has been in the news this week for a rather interesting scenario. The situation involves  Floyd being legally adopted as a 20-year old and provided benefits from his now adopted father. It, of course, reminds football fans of Ole Miss offensive lineman Michael Oher and the book and movie known as “The Blind Side.”

It was very early in the head coaching career of Will Muschamp when he made some waves in the college football world by releasing a very strong statement bashing the NCAA and supporting his defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. Floyd received roughly $2,500 in cash from an individual not associated with the University of Florida for basic living expenses. Floyd was suspended two games and asked to pay $2,700 to a charity. The NCAA act moved Muschamp to release the following:

“I’m angered, disgusted and extremely disappointed that Sharrif will have to miss two games.

In my opinion Sharrif is getting lumped into what is bad about college athletics. As we indicated in the statement Saturday night his issue was not related to sports agents, University of Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida or anywhere else.

Sharrif is what is good about college athletics – his life is about survival, struggle, disappointment and adversity. I have recruited kids that did not know where they would sleep that night or what they would eat. Growing up, Sharrif was one these kids. Sharrif’s life is also about triumph, honesty, integrity, determination, perseverance and character.  The NCAA stated that he received preferential treatment; there is nothing preferential about his life.

He grew up with only his great grandmother and still sends her Pell Grant money so she can pay her bills. How many kids do you know that would do that?  I know one – Sharrif Floyd.

I want to make it clear that this issue is not about sports agents, Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida or anywhere else.  The issue is about his survival and the only reason the NCAA, the SEC and the University of Florida were aware of these issues is because Sharrif brought them to our attention last February. He came forward because, as I said before, he is honest and because of his integrity.

The toughest day that I have had as a head football coach at Florida was the day that I had to tell Sharrif that he could not play in our game vs. FAU last week. I took away part of his family.

He had tears in his eyes and said “What have I done wrong?” I told him he did nothing wrong. It wasn’t any easier to tell him today that he would be missing Saturday’s game.

I have two sons at home- if they end up like Sharrif I will consider myself a successful father. “

The story didn’t end there.

Apparently, the help he recieved back then was from an individual named Kevin Lahn. If you’re a South Carolina fan, you may have heard of him. Lahn is a South Carolina graduate and booster. He has been recently disassociated from South Carolina in 2011 as a result of an NCAA investigation. If he is a former South Carolina booster, why is he helping a Florida player? Good question.

Since the suspension in early 2011, Sharrif Floyd has now been adopted by Kevin Lahn. He receives more in benefits from his adoptive father now than he was punished for previously. Of course, there are no rules against a father providing benefits to a child.

It’s the unprecedented nature of this situation which is so unusual.

Lahn has absolutely helped Floyd out. It is reported that he has leased him an apartment and a 2012 Ford Explorer. While obviously significant gifts, it’s difficult to get too worked up over an apartment and Ford Explorer.

Floyd and a few other players did get to attend a combined birthday celebration for Floyd and Lahn wedding anniversary which included a luxurious trip to Miami and some time on a chartered yacht. Apparently, Lahn intended to allow Floyd to bring even more players and friends, but when Lahn ran it by the Florida compliance office, he scaled it back. An NCAA bylaw makes it clear that athletes can receive benefits from the parent of a friend, but clearly a massive team party on an 80-ft yacht would draw some unnecessary attention.

Lahn apparently met Floyd as a teenager attending high school in Philadelphia. They became friends, and Floyd would often stay with the Lahn’s when he returned home from college.

Did Lahn go the adoption route so that he could help Floyd out without hurting Floyd’s career? Probably. You can’t blame the guy. If you can’t even help a young man get by on some basic living expenses without getting the NCAA involved, people are naturally going to try and find loopholes.

“Basically, the NCAA was telling Kevin for the next three years he could no longer be a part of Sharrif’s life,” Steve Gordon says. “At that point, it was like taking your son away from you and saying he can’t be your son for three years, you can rekindle the friendship or the father-son relationship after that. And Kevin said, ‘No, that’s not acceptable.’ “

The skeptical readers will look at this situation and assume that Lahn is trying to get in with Floyd prior to him making millions as an NFL player (Floyd is an expected first round draft pick). At this point, it seems silly to assume anything of the sort. Lahn’s relationship with Floyd goes back several years to Philadelphia, and Lahn has no connection with the University of Florida.

With the story making major news, any future similar adoptions of major college athletes are sure to get attention. You can read the original story by USA Today here.

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

COMMENTS

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  • Let’s just call this what it is….a person with connections and money doing what he can to help a schools football and basketball team. You think this guy “adopts 20 year men” if they aren’t 6’3″ 300lbs or 6’6″ with a jump shot?? He sends Pell Grant $$ to his Great grandmother?? Is that even what tax payer $$ is supposed to go to??

  • This is very interesting. The fact that the “father” was a booster at USC makes me think that he may be doing it for the kid.