A Morgan State University basketball player is suing the NCAA and the school after he was denied a spot on the team because of a five-year eligibility rule.
Andrew Hampton, 24, a forward and a senior studying accounting, said in a complaint recently filed in Baltimore Circuit Court that he should be able to play his final season with the team this year. The NCAA, however, says he's no longer eligible because he started his college education more than five years ago.
"He did not meet the definition of a student-athlete. He wasn't playing basketball, and hadn't been a recruit. When he gets to Morgan, that's when he first became a student-athlete," under the NCAA bylaws, said Hampton's attorney, Andrew G. Slutkin of the Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White law firm.
The NCAA bylaws, which regulate intercollegiate athletics, say student-athletes cannot play more than four seasons of one sport.
Hampton started at Mount St. Mary's University in 2011, and later transferred to Montgomery County Community College in 2013. He did not play sports at either school.
Hampton's attorneys argue the he did not become a student-athlete, according to the bylaws' definition, until he became a walk-on at Morgan State in the fall of 2013. At that time, he was "redshirted," a term used for students who practice with the team but aren't allowed to compete.
"Mr. Hampton's five-year clock under the NCAA's five-year rule — which by its very terms applies only to 'student-athletes' — did not begin to run until the fall of 2013, and therefore cannot officially expire prior to the conclusion of the 2017-18 season," the lawsuit says.
The NCAA, according to the lawsuit, insists that his eligibility expired because he enrolled at Mount St. Mary's in 2011.
Morgan State filed a request to waive the five-year rule in Hampton's case, but the NCAA denied it. The school has been named in the suit, Slutkin said, because it has refused to appeal the NCAA's ruling.
Morgan State spokesman Larry Jones declined to comment Tuesday, citing the pending litigation.
Slutkin said his client was prevented from playing last year. Before filing the suit, Hampton's lawyers wrote NCAA officials multiple times to argue Hampton's eligibility. In response, the NCAA simply cited the regulation, not permitting him to play.
"We went through several rounds of letters. It was listening to a broken record. It didn't make sense," Slutkin said.
NCAA officials did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday morning.
There appears to be no other previous cases to provide any precedent, Slutkin said.
Hampton is an accounting major and member of the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society. He is from Germantown in Montgomery County and went to Seneca Valley High School.
Slutkin said his client is expected to graduate from Morgan State this spring.
During the 2014-15 season with the Bears, Hampton played in 14 games, leading the team in 3-point shooting percentage (.434).
In his first game, he had one block in two minutes against Towson. He played a career-high 31 minutes and scored a career-high 18 points that season against Coppin State. He appeared in four games in 2015-16.
The complaint is asking a judge for an injunction to prevent the NCAA from keeping Hampton sidelined. Hampton is also asking for $10,000 in damages lost in scholarship money.
"It's really is about getting him to play. The rules allow it and he should be allowed to play," Slutkin said.