NCAA Finally Comes Through

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON — Every four hours this past weekend, Clemson defensive back Ray Ray McElrathbey would call and check in with his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr. But there was no need for McElrathbey, who has temporary custody of his brother because of his mother’s continuing drug problems and his father’s gambling addiction, to be concerned.

“He was having a great time,” McElrathbey said after Monday’s practice. “He stayed with some college friends of mine and went to Frankie’s Fun Park, I guess that is what you call it, but he had a great time.”

When McElrathbey and his Clemson teammates visit Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., this Saturday night, he will not have to worry about his little brother because his little brother might be with him or with one of the coaches’ family now that the NCAA will allow the Clemson staff to provide assistance in taking care of Fahmarr.

The school had asked the NCAA for a waiver of its rule prohibiting athletes from obtaining gifts, cash or other benefits not available to the general student population in order to help McElrathbey in this unique situation.

At first the ACC and the NCAA balked at McElrathbey and Clemson’s request, and said they couldn’t help because it wasn’t that unique of a situation. When Charleston Post & Courier beat writer Larry Williams broke the story last month, television stations, radio sports talk shows and the national print media, including Sports Illustrated this past weekend, applied pressure for the NCAA to rethink the situation.

“Once the NCAA became aware of the circumstances, we immediately began working with the Atlantic Coast Conference and Clemson University to address this unique situation,” said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of membership services. “NCAA extra benefit rules are designed to ensure student athletes do not receive financial or other benefits that are not readily available to all students.

“If there is a special circumstance, like this case, the institution and conference may seek a waiver.”

Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden was glad the NCAA finally came through.

“I think it was the right thing,” Bowden said. “They have a little more different angles than I do so I thought it was a pretty good common sense answer.”

Bowden, who said he will do everything the rule allows him to do to help McElrathbey, thanked the media for pushing the subject and getting the word out.

“It is one of the few good things ya’ll do (the media),” he joked. “When ya’ll make a big deal and it gets to the national media and it becomes a bigger deal. When ya’ll throw out the rule books and analyze it the way you did, then they will listen to ya’ll.”

Under the waiver, McElrathbey will be allowed to receive assistance, such as local transportation and childcare for Fahmarr.

“I’m not fully sure about all the rules and bylaws about the wavier, but for the most part they allow people in the athletic department to give him a ride to school, pick him up and keep him over the weekend while we are at any away game,” McElrathbey said.

Though McElrathbey isn’t sure what the waiver entails, he does know it will take a lot of pressure and worries off of his mind.

“It is great because I know I have responsible adults taking care of my brother so when I’m on the road I don’t have to worry as much,” McElrathbey said. “That takes a lot off of me so I can focus more on athletics.”

The two brothers had been living solely off McElrathbey’s scholarship, but Clemson plans to establish a trust fund to coordinate financial contributions to help pay for normal living expenses, Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips said in a news release.

Clemson officials said details of how the trust will be set up and how it will collect money have not been finalized, but the university is prohibited from coordinating a fundraiser with a football game.

McElrathbey has said he sought custody of Fahmarr because he was tired of worrying what might happen to Fahmarr living with their mother in Atlanta.

“I wasn’t going to let him go back to a foster home, back to the system,” he said.
McElrathbey says his little brother is thankful for the waiver too, though he doesn’t fully understand what it all means.

“His favorite saying is to say ‘Ray Ray, I made you famous.’ I think he understands the publicity with it, but not really what it entails and our situation,” McElrathbey said.

Courtesy of Journal / Messenger

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