It’s hard not to imagine Ben Stanley as a happy young man at this time last year. He was returning to Hampton, an HBCU with a solid basketball program, as a sophomore. His basketball future seemed set as he was preparing to make a big jump and land a starting spot. His scholastic endeavors were also going well and he was making good progress toward a degree in political science.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Hampton changed their policies regarding in person class and Stanley, who didn’t even own a computer, immediately began to struggle with his studies. When Hampton announced that they would not be holding the in-person classes that Ben believed he needed to succeed, he entered the transfer portal. Step back from the situation and ponder this for a moment. A student with a genuine desire to learn and a genuine learning disability that makes learning via Skype call a challenge decided to make a decision to leave the area he has called home most his life in order to continue setting himself up for success. That’s admirable.
And Stanley wasn’t the usual transfer, either. His willingness to learn was evident at Xavier. Stanley struggled to get himself eligible to play at Hampton and worked hard his freshman year to get himself eligible to play. He did that. Upon making it to Xavier he started regular attendance in classes, meeting with his academic advisor once a week, a tutor twice a week, and a doctor to help with his learning disability. Yes, Ben Stanley is a very talented basketball player, but it’s clear from his dedication to learning that is not all he sees himself as. Again, this is commendable in the extreme.
The NCAA, though, for all of it palaver about “student’-athletes,” sees Ben as nothing more than a revenue raising piece of meat. The NCAA does not care that he left the tidewater area where he grew up, that he and his new school documented his learning disability and dedicated pages into demonstrating how he would even harder to learn around it, they don’t care that he left a school that he said he never would have left before Covid in order to find a place where he could learn, they don’t care that Ben Stanley is a young man who made an extremely difficult choice in order to make his life better. All the NCAA sees is basketballs and dollar signs. In that crass calculus all Ben Stanley is is another way to put butts in seats. There are no reasons he exists beyond basketball.
Does that seem reductive? Does that seem harsh on the NCAA? Step back and consider for a moment again. Ben Stanley did everything listed here and applied for his waiver as soon as he could. He didn’t wait until the last minute, he didn’t delay, he didn’t waste time. He took a decision and acted on it. Then he waited. And yes, Ben Stanley does play basketball. He practiced with his team, and he waited. Is basketball his raison d’etre? No, but he played in scrimmages and he waited. Could he play? He did his running and his lifting and he waited. A young man that just took an incredibly hard decision to leave a place he loved sat and waited and waited.
And the NCAA didn’t answer. It’s not that they couldn’t, countless other transfers received their waivers for reasons far more trifling than Stanley’s. As Mario Mercurio put it, “Fake uncle has a fake illness? Waiver. Last coach was mean? Waiver.” As these were handed down, Staley waited. Then, in the last week before the season, the NCAA denied his waiver. Then, after the close of business in the last day before game week, they denied his appeal.
There is no reason to do this other than a refusal to account for the humanity of everyone. Ben Stanley is not a person to the NCAA, he is nothing more than a revenue generating piece that runs around for their entertainment. He’s not a person, he’s a number that they see only in their craven pursuit of cash. The NCAA runs the best sporting event in the world, they are also a disgusting, despicable, reprehensible organization committed to cruelty for its own sake. There was no reason to deny Stanley a waiver and the NCAA didn’t proffer one. They spit on him and moved on. For the part that Hampton may have played they hold an equal measure of blame.
In the end Ben Stanley may get to play basketball for Xavier. For now, he sits in Cincinnati. He’s no longer waiting, now he is just paying the price for trying to make himself a better person.