Questions Arise Concerning Russell Wilson's Eligibility
By Matt Hinton
If you were Russell Wilson, and you were currently earning a paycheck in the minor leagues of the sport that could be your bread and butter for the next decade, at least, getting your release papers from N.C. State might be the sign you've been waiting for to go ahead and put the football thing to bed. Which is just one more reason you're not Russell Wilson: The former All-ACC pick is not only suiting up for Wisconsin this year, he's already generated some Heisman and BCS Championship hype in Madison.
As the early round of suitors suggested, the market for versatile, veteran signal callers who can play right away (Wilson needs a waiver to avoid the usual season on the bench, likely a formality) never runs dry — especially in a place like South Carolina, where the demand only recently came into existence. With the Gamecocks' own versatile, veteran signal caller on the fence for the fall and the top backup looking even further behind the curve lately than he was last year, Carolina has an unexpected vacancy Wilson could fill immediately with minimal drop-off from Stephen Garcia in a do-or-die year for winning the SEC East.
Elsewhere, Auburn's green new quarterbacks were overshadowed this spring by the even greener Auburn defense. The crowd at Wisconsin's spring game was "frightened" by what it saw from the trio vying to replace Scott Tolzien. Senior and three year starter Terrell Pryor was declared ineligible for five games and subsequently jumped ship to the NFL. Kansas State is breaking in a new QB and is certainly no stranger to integrating transfers into the program. Rick Neuheisel might crawl from UCLA with a scholarship clinched in his teeth if he thought there was any chance of solving the circle of doom that threatens to put him in the unemployment line. Et cetera.
Not that Wilson is any kind of savior: He's a second-team All-ACC pick. But like Jeremiah Masoli during the vision quest that led him to Ole Miss last year, Madison, Wisconsin has welcomed Wilson as an instant and undeniable upgrade over the unsettling question marks it previously faced, while everyone else's roster stands still. Feed "instant upgrade" through the magazines, message boards and depth charts that make up the optimism machine, and a new star — or at least the expectation of one — is born.
It's not a new concept, but it's one that's becoming more prevalent as of late. What's interesting is that reports that have surfaced are making the similarities between former Auburn QB Cam Newton and Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson much bigger than originally thought. Early reports have arisen that the NCAA is investigating the eligibility of Russell Wilson as a result of claims that he possibly participated in a pay to play scheme. Wilson was reportedly offered money and/or benefits by some, but not all of the schools who were courting him. So far, the schools in question are Miami, Auburn, South Carolina, Ohio State, and obviously, Wisconsin. All parties have declined to comment at this time.
While many people have questioned why Wilson would forgo steady baseball money, perhaps the answers to those questions are much similar than we all thought. Now I have a feeling that the questions will be more like how much he was offered in comparison to the 180,000 value that circled around Newton at the time, how much the universities themselves knew about this, how much Wilson himself knew versus just his parents, et cetera. Only time will tell, but this story certainly is just beginning.