Cameron Rodriguez, the Oklahoma City Thunder fan who drained a halfcourt shot last week to win $20,000, may have to forego his financial prize for pure pride.
As it turns out, Rodriguez is on the basketball team at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, and under NAIA rules, an athlete cannot use his or her sports ability or fame for financial reward.
"I didn't really think about it at first because I was way too excited," Rodriguez told Bloomberg. "After things settled down, I realized we might have an issue because I was receiving a large amount of money."
Rodriguez and his school have devised a creative solution. They're asking the NAIA to consider allowing Rodriguez to apply his reward to his tuition. The appeal is working its way through the system (it must first go through the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference before reaching the NAIA), and NAIA Eligibility Center executive director John Leavens said these cases usually take one to two weeks.
"It would certainly hurt his cause if he had tried to circumvent the rules," Leavens said. “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."
When he knocked in the halfcourt shot on Nov. 18, Rodriguez became the fourth person since February to win the Thunder's promotion.
At the next Oklahoma City home game, a fifth person made the shot.
One might think Rodriguez's unfortunate situation is actually a break for the Thunder, or rather MidFirst Bank, which sponsors the promotion. But MidFirst Bank has said that if Rodriguez can't pocket the money, it will donate it in his name to charity.
Interestingly, while similar rules apply in the NCAA, that organization makes an exception for prizes from promotions where contestants are chosen at random, as Rodriguez was.
A Thunder team spokesman told Bloomberg that had they known Rodriguez was a scholarship basketball player, his eligibility issues might have prevented the team from selecting him.
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(H/T to Larry Brown Sports)