NCAA rules UCLA’s Muhammad ineligible

LOS ANGELES — With all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the opening of the new Pauley Pavilion, the NCAA come down with a huge thunderstorm on the Bruins parade.

Just hours before the season opener for UCLA against Indiana State, the NCAA declared highly decorated freshman shooting guard Shabazz Muhammad ineligible to compete in “tonight’s game.”

The NCAA announced to all the schools recruiting Muhammad in February that they would be investigating the star guard for any improper benefits he may have received in order to take selected unofficial visits while in high school.

The NCAA says documents were requested to evaluate Muhammad’s eligibility on July 31 but they were not received until Sept. 25. More information was received Oct. 10 and Nov. 1. Muhammad’s parents were interviewed last week.

After an investigation which included reviewing “thousands of pages of information,” the NCAA and UCLA agreed on the facts involving Muhammad’s case on Friday, with the NCAA taking just hours to make a decision. According to the NCAA, Muhammad “accepted travel and lodging during three unofficial visits to NCAA member schools.”

The NCAA released a statement saying its members schools have standards for when an individual can provide student athletes assistance financially, which were “not met in this case.”

“The NCAA has finally determined that a violation of the NCAA amateurism rules has occurred involving UCLA freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad and his family,” UCLA athletic Director Dan Guerrero announced in a statement. “As a result, he is ineligible for competition at this time. We are extremely disappointed that the NCAA has made this determination.”

Muhammad was sidelined recently with a strained shoulder which was supposed to keep him physically unable to perform past the date of the opener.

However, earlier this week, head coach Ben Howland said he’d been able to return to practice. Howland remained hopeful that a decision from the NCAA would come down soon. It did, however, it wasn’t what the Bruins were hoping for.

“The University and our compliance staff have fully cooperated with the NCAA throughout this entire period, and we believe the decision is incorrect and unjust to Shabazz,” Guerrero said. “UCLA will expeditiously pursue its options to challenge this determination. When a final resolution has been reached by the NCAA, we will swiftly communicate the news to the entire Bruin family.”

It is not known when that resolution will be reached but the NCAA contends they are they are trying to resolve the matter as “quickly as possible.”

Muhammad was rated by many as the top player in the class of 2012. He was a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year in Nevada and led Las Vegas Bishop Gorman to three state titles.

He is a projected NBA Lottery Pick in 2013.