A 23-year-old fan named Cameron Rodriguez hit a half-court shot for $20,000 at an Oklahoma City Thunder game on Nov. 18, one of an unfathomable five fans to complete the feat in a 22-game stretch at Chesapeake Energy Arena, including two in back-to-back games.
Unfortunately, Rodriguez may not get to keep his haul, which he earned fair and square by sinking the shot below, because he’s a college athlete.
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Rodriguez is a basketball player at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan. The Moundbuilders play at the NAIA level, and, according to Bloomberg, the school is now asking for a rules exception for Rodriguez that would allow the sophomore to keep the money and put it toward his tuition.
The NAIA student guide states that any athlete who “exploits” his or her fame or abilities “for remuneration” is considered a professional and would lose amateur standing.
The NCAA makes an exception for prize money won in promotions for which an athlete was chosen at random, however it’s not known whether a similar exception will be made for Rodriguez.
“It would certainly hurt his cause if he had tried to circumvent the rules,” John Leavens, the executive director of the NAIA Eligibility Center, told Bloomberg. “The fact that he connected with the right officials to make sure that he understood the proper application of the rule is something that we expect, and we’re glad to see.”
Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney told Bloomberg that Rodriguez was, indeed, chosen at random, though he admitted the team might not have picked Rodriguez had they known he was a scholarship basketball player.
“We think that for the integrity of the promotion and for our fans, we always want to have someone that has a reasonable chance to make it,” Mahoney told the site. “That’s a lot of people in our building. It’s a random selection process before the game.”
Rodriguez told Bloomberg that, while he receives a $4,000 athletic scholarship from Southwestern College, his out-of-pocket expenses each year still total an estimated $33,000. If he can’t put the prize money toward his own school expenses, MidFirst Bank, which funds the promotion, said it would donate the cash to a charity in his name.