Nick Smith Jr. set to play his senior season with North Little Rock High School

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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Part of the reason Smith was ineligible was from rules dealing with non-school coaches.

One of the trainers Smith had worked with for years was a volunteer coach for the NLR basketball team.  When Smith enrolled at NLR he was automatically ineligible because of that relationship.  Even if all parties filled out the athletic release form to acknowledge the trainer/player relationship, Smith was going to be deemed ineligible at NLR, which is stated at the bottom of the form.

The Arkansas Activities Association also said a student-athlete cannot use school choice as a way to transfer schools after the 10th grade.  It must be a bonafide move into the corresponding district, which the Smiths have done.

Once NLR self-reported the apparent violations the AAA just accepted their findings.  The AAA says they never made a ruling on smith’s eligibility because the rules automatically made him ineligible. 

On Wednesday there was a small group of people protesting Smith’s eligibility status (before this afternoon’s announcement from both school districts). 

“They don’t care if he’s a five-star commit, they don’t care if he sits the bench, he’s a kid! That’s what the people of North Little Rock care about.  If it’s not right, it’s not right, doesn’t matter if he’s a five-star commit, doesn’t matter if he’s never going to play a game,” Jimme Cavin said. 

Cavin believes adults should be held more accountable in situations like this because he says Smith, Jr. did nothing wrong to deserve to be ineligible.

“I don’t want the Razorbacks to lose this guy.  I don’t want this Top 5 recruiting class we got, actually, we’re number two with a chance of getting one more and being number one.  Hey I don’t want to lose that, but more importantly, I don’t want to see this kid going through what he’s going through,” Clay Todd said when asked if people would care as much about Smith’s eligibility status if he wasn’t a Razorback commit.

Todd also added he felt there would not be as much outcry from the public if Smith was committed elsewhere.

In the joint statement from NLRSD and PCSSD, both districts signed documents that would allow Smith, Jr. to be eligible to play in the 2021-22 basketball season.

Both districts admit there were violations committed but the student-athlete was not at fault. 

The statement goes on to say process uncovered several concerns related to the AAA rules, procedures, systems, and accountability structure.  They said there is a significant lack of clarity which causes confusion and inconsistent interpretations of several things:

  • Application of penalties that harm student-athletes rather than adults
  • The Changing Schools Athletic Participation form and how it can override any AAA violations
  • The AAA investigative process
  • The non-school coach rule
  • The recruitment rule
  • Volunteer coaches, trainers, and private athletic instructors
  • A self-reported violation versus a non self-reported violation
  • AAA appeal process

Both districts call for the AAA to perform a full review and audit of its rules and procedures.

PCSSD said it was satisfied with NLRSD’s commitment to appropriately address their violations in its athletic program.

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