NORMAN, Okla. -- The NCAA granted a waiver Thursday for the University of Oklahoma to set up a fund to assist with funeral expenses for the family of a slain football recruit.
Herman Mitchell, a 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker, verbally committed in June to play for the Sooners, but the 17-year-old from Westfield High School in Houston was shot to death Friday after getting into a fight at an apartment complex.
Soon after, Oklahoma booster and Houston resident Adam Fineberg began raising money for Mitchell's family to help defray the player's funeral costs. Fineberg had raised about $4,500 before university compliance officials told him his actions violated NCAA rules. He has since refunded the money.
Oklahoma officials said they'd been told Tuesday by the NCAA that the money raised by Fineberg would constitute illegal financial assistance under NCAA rules, because Mitchell's brother is a sophomore football player at Westfield and Fineberg is considered to be an Oklahoma booster.
Fineberg said his only intention was to help Mitchell's mother to pay for the funeral. Oklahoma compliance officials requested the waiver on Wednesday.
"We're happy with their decision and now we have we have a little bit of work to do, to make sure we do this in accordance with NCAA rules and with the laws of Oklahoma," Oklahoma athletic department spokesman Kenny Mossman said.
Under the waiver, granted by the NCAA's membership services staff, any funds raised by Fineberg can be transferred to the university to help pay for funeral expenses.
The waiver has three conditions -- that the university take control of the fundraising and any funds already donated to Fineberg; that the university use the funds to directly cover the costs of the funeral and memorial services, with no money going directly to the family; and that any excess funds be donated to a Houston-area nonprofit organization to be chosen by the university.
"This is a tragic circumstance, and we are glad we were able to work quickly with OU to assist this family in their time of need," said Kevin Lennon, the NCAA vice president for membership services.
Lennon said NCAA bylaws cannot take into account the unique circumstances of every situation.
"This is a case where our waiver process worked exactly as it is intended -- to collaborate with a member institution to address an individual situation," he said.
The Associated Press News Service
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