The attorney helping Kansas forward Cliff Alexander navigate an NCAA eligibility issue couldn’t offer many specifics about the enigmatic freshman's predicament. Nor could Arthur McAfee shed light on how far along the investigation is. Nor could the former NCAA enforcement representative offer a guess as to when a resolution might arrive, even as time suddenly is running out on Alexander’s 2014-15 season.
In a conversation with SI.com on Sunday morning, all McAfee could say is that both sides will work to minimize any damage done to Alexander or the Jayhawks, if that is indeed possible.
“I can’t handicap it for you, it wouldn’t be fair to either side to do so,” McAfee told SI.com in a phone interview. “Our goal is to make sure there is clarity with whatever issue [the NCAA] may have. We’re always confident that whatever information [it is] looking for is in favor of Cliff. These things take time to develop. [It has] procedures [it] must follow, and I think there’s an attempt to do it fairly quickly. We will see here in short order, I hope.”
On Saturday, hours before what became a 69-64 win over Texas, Kansas announced that Alexander would be held out of competition after the NCAA alerted the school “to an issue that could affect Cliff’s eligibility.” The 6’8” forward and former top-10 recruit, the school said, wouldn’t play again until the issue was resolved.
The urgency was immediately clear: Kansas has just two regular season games left, plus the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. A protracted investigation could compromise Alexander’s ability to put on a Jayhawks uniform again.
“I would assume that [the NCAA] understands the pressures of the current basketball season,” McAfee said, “and I’m sure [it] will try to do [its] job in a thorough fashion, to cause the least amount of harm to Cliff and the university.”
After the game Saturday, Kansas coach Bill Self told reporters in Lawrence that “we haven’t been told it was a KU situation” and expressed optimism that Alexander’s situation will be cleared up “in the very near future.”
On Sunday, McAfee didn’t expand much on that, declining to say what issue the NCAA is examining.
“Those things become narrower as [the NCAA] works through the information [it] may have,” McAfee said. “We will know those things in short order.”
McAfee also declined to specify how or when he was enlisted by the Alexander family. The Washington, D.C.-based attorney previously has served as staff counsel for the NFLPA, a player agent, an NCAA enforcement representative and outside counsel to universities involved in NCAA infractions cases, per his practice’s website.
Alexander has had a maddeningly inconsistent freshman season, scoring just six points total in the four games before the NCAA issues arose. And yet his per-40 minutes production rates—16.2 points, 12 rebounds, 56.6 percent shooting—suggest he has the ability to be the interior presence Kansas desperately needs to contend for a Final Four berth.
It is fair to surmise that the NCAA informed Kansas of an official inquiry fairly quickly, given that the school would want to act swiftly to avoid suiting up a potentially ineligible player and compromising the results for the rest of the season. (Self told reporters that school officials informed him of Alexander’s situation at noon on Saturday.)
But parallels for Alexander’s particular issues are currently anyone’s guess, given the lack of specifics offered. An answer could come quick, or not quickly enough.
“[The NCAA] notified the institution of what [it] believes are issues,” McAfee said, “and we go from that point.”