Just when Illini nation was glad to have Kofi Cockburn back in the University of Illinois men's basketball program after he declared for the NBA draft this past summer, the Illini may be without their All-American big man.
When and for how long he may not be available is up to the NCAA.
Name Image Likeness (NIL) is new to the NCAA this year and has changed the landscape of college sports. Players are now able to profit from their names and make money.
It appears the NCAA was not thinking clearly because some schools have a clear advantage over others when they had it to begin with.
Kentucky freshman guard TyTy Washington recently signed a deal with a Porsche dealership out of Louisville; those who are internet savvy, Google it, and, when you see the car, try not to fall over.
But what does all this have to do with Cockburn?
This past April he declared for the NBA draft and, having already pulled out of the draft in 2020, it appeared to be a near certainty he would not be back.
Cockburn auctioned off his Illini gear online in late June on The Players Trunk website. Cockburn had several game items such as jerseys, shorts and shoes for which the Illinois center received payment.
This, according to the NCAA, is a violation, which now more than likely forces the Illinois All-American center to sit.
The question is: For how long? It could be one game, it might be five or more.
Sure, I know the rules for NIL, but one kid is driving around in a $66,000 car and another sold his gear and reportedly paid back the proceeds.
That still may cost him a great portion of his junior campaign at Illinois.
If the NCAA is going to allow this, now might be a great time to police it as well. Do you think all schools will be able to provide NIL deals like Kentucky with those kinds of perks? It is not like the Wildcats need any extra bait to add to their tackle box when it comes to landing recruits.
The ruling the NCAA hands down could play a major part in the seed the Illini receive in the postseason. During nonconference play they face Marquette, Cincinnati, and, potentially, a key match-up with top-15 Arkansas. Those games — possibly without Cockburn — could alter Illinois' seed come March.
Cockburn came back to Illinois to improve his draft status. NBA scouts suggested that he show he can make shots from the perimeter, improve his free throws, and, more importantly, defend guys who are stuck inside the lane.
For now, it is a waiting game with no timetable as to when an NCAA decision on this matter will be made.
“I know there's a lot of speculation out there on Kofi, whatever," said Illinois coach Brad Underwood. "We don't know anything at this point. There's nothing to ask. We're going through due diligence.”