City link threatens Hemming scholarship
By KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press
Tyler Hemming's association with London City of the Canadian Professional Soccer League may have cost him an American scholarship.
Hemming, 17, has played with City the past couple of seasons and even though he probably won't suit up with the team this year and has never been paid to play, his scholarship eligibility is in question.
Melody Lawrence, speaking for the U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association, said that if a team declares itself professional, the amateur status of its players would be jeopardized if attending a Division I school in the U.S.
Lawrence said it doesn't matter how long ago Hemming played. He would still be violating rules.
A disappointed Hemming said all the schools he is considering are in Division I.
Lawrence said the rules in Divisions II and III are different, allowing an individual to participate on a pro team before enroling in college.
The student may still be subject to some penalties, though, including sitting out a year before being eligible.
If a Division I student has jeopardized his eligibility, the school would have to seek reinstatement of the student's eligibility through the student-athlete reinstatement procedures, Lawrence said.
City manager Harry Gauss reaction was: "It's unbelievable. . . . (U.S. colleges) scout the CPSL so heavily."
He said it was a Canadian university coach who first charged that anyone playing in the CPSL was NCAA-ineligible.
"The minute I heard the rumours, I said, 'We're going to check it out, officially.' "
Gauss estimated there are two dozen CPSL players who are on scholarship in the U.S., including London City's Eris Tafaj.
Tafaj is finishing his fourth and final year at the University of Detroit, also a Division I school.
Gauss said Tafaj's was a case of "let sleeping dogs lie."
Hemming has had several scholarship offers and is travelling to schools next month for campus visits.
He'll decide after those trips which university he'll attend.
"Ultimately, the institution to which he enrols would have to research this issue pretty thoroughly," said Lawrence.
CPSL administrator Stan Adamson, who has been looking into the rules since getting wind of Hemming's situation, said the league will help Hemming work through the problem.
"We believe he is OK. All is not lost," he said.
Adamson said the NCAA seems to have different rules for different leagues, and its policies change over time.
"We felt he was quite safe in being an amateur playing on a team that does not pay its players, even though it's a professional league."
Adamson said Hemming is in a tough situation because he has the skills to play professionally overseas and to be on a national team and playing in the CPSL is the highest level of play where he can hone his skills right now.
"He's caught between a scholarship and staying on track with his soccer."
Hemming is one of the young stars of the London soccer scene. He is a member of the national training program in Vaughan, north of Toronto. Last season he was named to the CPSL all-star squad, which faced Bundesliga's 1860 Munich in an exhibition game.
In 2001, at 16, he was the youngest player in the CPSL.