Sunday Adebayo fought City Hall and won.
Growing up in Benin City, Nigeria, Adebayo never heard that American axiom about bureaucracies. You're not supposed to take on the NCAA. But that's what he did to rejoin Arkansas. Adebayo was kicked off the Razorbacks' roster by the NCAA two years ago, played for Memphis last season and is back with No. 14 Arkansas, an unprecedented series of transfers.
"I can't describe a situation that comes remotely close to this," said David Berst, who oversees enforcement for the NCAA. "I don't know how you could put together a scenario that would come out the same way. There are times when the rules say no, but common sense says yes."
Adebayo is an industrial technology major with a 3.26 cumulative grade-point average, but two years ago he became entangled in a national scandal du jour, the abuse of correspondence courses by junior-college players to get their associate degree.
In the fall of 1995, Adebayo transferred from Three Rivers (Mo.) Junior College to Arkansas, where he put up a perfect 4.0 GPA in his first semester. Confusion over Adebayo's transcript from Three Rivers wasn't cleared up when he began practicing with Arkansas, which admitted to that minor violation.
A 6-foot-6 forward, Adebayo was Arkansas' leading rebounder when he was declared ineligible by the NCAA, which denied his appeal for reinstatement just before the Razorbacks began postseason play in 1996.
The NCAA admitted to extenuating circumstances when it allowed Adebayo to play for Memphis in 1996-97 without sitting out, but it was a tortuous transfer. He arrived in time for Larry Finch's messy final season, and his heart was back in Fayetteville, where he got a standing ovation when the Tigers played the Razorbacks.
"His loyalty was unique," coach Nolan Richardson said. "When Memphis played here last year, he stayed around a day longer than the rest of his team. He was always calling us."
Adebayo had used up his four seasons of college eligibility, but when the NCAA admitted last April that he should never have been suspended in the first place, he dug in and hired a Fayetteville lawyer to try and get him another season. Last October, an NCAA administrative review panel that was formed in 1993 granted his appeal.
Adebayo's transcript was a mess after three transfers in as many years, but he rejoined Arkansas at the end of the first semester. He sprained an ankle and had to play his way back into the lineup, but he won't have to fight his way into the NCAA tournament. Arkansas (19-3) has won 12 of its past 13.
"When I first talked to a lawyer, he said I didn't have one chance in a million, but I knew I didn't do anything wrong," Adebayo said before practice Tuesday. "People say I've made history, but I don't get carried away with that. I'm just glad I got the year here back."
Which Massachusetts team is going to show up at Xavier on Sunday?
The Minutemen lost narrow decisions to Kansas and Cincinnati, but their other setbacks include going down by 18 points to Fresno State, 13 to Purdue and 17 to Connecticut. They followed an overtime loss to Cincy with 10 straight wins in the Atlantic 10, including a 31-point pounding of George Washington, but then UMass was handled, 61-47, by Temple.
The Owls, who played without injured guard Pepe Sanchez, had been 0-7 at the Mullins Center in Amherst.
After relying on the backcourt of Carmelo Travieso and Edgar Padilla for what seemed like most of the 1990s, the Minutemen had to break in some new guards. Junior Charlton Clarke has seemed uneasy at the point, and Proposition 48 sophomore Monty Mack and freshman Jonathan DePina are finding the going a little rougher than what they ran into in high school in South Boston.
Skip Prosser's Xavier team, by the way, is no lock for the NCAAs. The Musketeers are ranked No. 21, but they're No. 46 in the latest replica of the RPI the men's basketball committee uses to XTC select and seed the 64-team field.