After the news was announced yesterday that former Baylor running back Silas Nicita had lost his NCAA eligibility, it brought back memories of the past few months that gave us more questions than answers.
You’ve likely heard by now the story of Silas Nacita. The 4.1 GPA student from Bakersfield, CA, who went to Cornell, moved to Central Texas, was homeless, enrolled at Baylor, and then was kicked off for violating those pesky NCAA rules. For those that hate the NCAA, and everything that it stands for, it’s practically a made-to-order tale. But, what if it’s all too good to be true? What if there are so many holes in this story, it makes you question the original tales, as told by Silas Nacita?
To preface, this story is not meant to disparage Silas Nacita. He’s not the first, and won’t be the last college kid to get caught in a lie. But, rather this article is meant to question some of the holes in Nacita’s story that the major media outlets never bothered to. Nacita’s story was too perfect for them to pass on, and yes, I believe too perfect for them to ask any deep questions about. For a sports media, that in general, despises the NCAA, this was teed up to their delight.
First off, I found it curious that a student-athlete would decide to leave Cornell, one of the most prestigious Universities in the country, without having a set plan of, you know, a place to live. Nacita allegedly moved to Waco at the advice of friends at Baylor because it was 1,600 miles closer to home (yet, still 1,400 miles from home).
For a little background, from people I spoke with that have ties to Cornell football, Nacita did not come in with “any extra fanfare” than your typical Cornell football player. He came into a pass-first offense as a freshman and did not get as many opportunities as he was hoping for (100 yards on the season). Also, Nacita had punting experience, which some on the coaching staff were excited about when he enrolled. But, those plans were quickly axed.
Nacita, who was an All-State wrestler in high school, joined the Cornell wrestling team during his stint in Ithaca, NY. But, Cornell is one of the top programs in the country, and Nacita was, more or less, brought in to be an extra body in practice. This did not last long, as Nacita was off the roster after a couple of weeks.
When Nacita decided to leave Cornell, it was not a situation similar to some athletes moving from Ivy League to a larger conference, where he was granted a release and it was an open recruitment, with major schools salivating for his services.
Nacita cited homesickness, bad weather and a desire to play football at a higher level for leaving Cornell. But, here is where his story gets murky. After moving to Central Texas at the encouragement of friends, Nacita unsuccessfully tried to enroll at Baylor, spent a few months taking online courses, and then successfully enrolled at Baylor in June of 2014. Then, Nacita gained National attention towards the end of 2014 for his Sports Illustrated story as the “homeless kid turned Baylor Football player.”
But, the there are holes all over the Sports Illustrated piece. As one person I spoke with who has ties to Cornell put it, “If you polled the people here that knew him, the story didn’t make a ton of sense. It reeked of self promotion.”
First off, the piece states Nacita earned a scholarship to Cornell. Well, no one earns an athletic scholarship to Cornell (Ivy League rule). Everything given at Cornell is need-based aid via grants and loans. Also, Nacita talks about his 2013-14 school year when he was taking online courses, and during Christmas break he hitch hiked his way from Texas back to his mother’s home in California.
There is a lapse in time that follows, but somewhere along the line he was able to secure “a federal loan and used the money to rent an apartment near campus. He bought a moped. Baylor coaches welcomed him back for summer (2014) football.” Wait, so the same kid who claims he has been “homeless” and has been scraping together his meals for nearly a year, went out a spent, up to a couple of thousand dollars on a moped? Either Nacita’s story has more holes than we will never know about, or he needs to enroll in a “Personal Finance” course ASAP.
Within two months of the Sports Illustrated story being printed, it was announced Nacita was ineligible for “rules violation”. After it turned out that Nacita has fibbed about how he paid for his housing (federal loan), he admitted in a tweet he was receiving some help:
But, the following tweet a day later, admitted that his prior tweet was not completely honest.
Also, I find it ironic that Nacita’s first tweet received 21,000 retweets, while his apology only received 319 retweets. Amazing! All of the sudden, the truth comes out, it doesn’t fit the storyline everyone wants, and the masses pretend like it never happened!
Plus, here’s a friendly NCAA-rule reminder: for Nacita to be declared ineligible, he would have had to have taken help for the apartment from someone with ties to Baylor University, not just a “family friend”, as he notes.
So, please explain why we should believe every last bit of his “homeless story” to begin with? Why does Nacita’s credibility deserve the benefit of the doubt? Plus, as has been noted in a few places, the Sports Illustrated piece was sought out by Nacita, and was not set up by Baylor University.
Once again, this isn’t so much to rag on Nacita. Young people make mistakes. But, the reality is, Nacita fit the storyline that many in the media wanted to use to support their beliefs on the NCAA. So they ran with it, consequences, and all the facts, be damned.
I have yet to read a piece that has the background I provided about his time at Cornell. Granted, it took me a couple hours of research. I interviewed close to ten people, and compared their stories. But, isn’t that a journalists’ job? Especially one from a major media outlet?
Rarely, was it ever noted that there are multiple NCAA rules in place to help kids in Nacita’s situation. Do you really think every student-athlete on campuses across the country are on full rides, or are in a position where their parents can pick up the balance of the tab? Nacita is not the first student-athlete to require more assistance.
All in all, this is an unfortunate situation and story. But, it proves again, that too many times, the journalists we rely on for “fact-based” stories, put their personal blinders on to tell us the story they want to hear. This has too often become the case in politics and sports, with the two interests intertwining each other more than ever.
Sure, is the NCAA archaic in some of their rules and regulations? Absolutely. Can they continue to improve? Yes. But, rarely do we hear about the hundreds of thousands of young people who have benefited and launched their professional careers thanks to opportunities provided by Universities, working in conjunction with the NCAA. But, hey, that doesn’t seem to fit the script these days. And I doubt it ever will. *Silas Nacita did not respond to our request for an interview for this story.*
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