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Banned OU football player Mike Balogun breaks silence

BY JAKE TROTTER, Staff Writer, Modified: March 10, 2010 at 8:35 am •  Published: March 10, 2010

NORMAN — For months, Mike Balogun has remained quiet.

Tuesday, he finally shared his side of the story.

Balogun, who was stripped of his final year of eligibility by the NCAA when it ruled he had played for a semi-pro team after his 21st birthday, gave his first interview since the incident after testing in front of NFL scouts during Oklahoma’s annual pro day.

"Something needs to change,” he said. "I know the NCAA is its own governing body. Nobody can touch their rules. But I think it needs to be changed. I wouldn’t say they ruined my career, but they put a dent in it.

"I don’t think anybody should have that much control over somebody’s football career, or life in general.”

Balogun entered the 2009 season as one of OU’s top linebackers. But two weeks before the season opener, the NCAA decertified him and launched an investigation to determine if he had played semi-pro football after turning 21.

The NCAA, whose rules mandate that for every season an athlete plays semi-pro football past the age of 21 he loses a season of eligibility, eventually ruled that Balogun had.

Balogun’s attorney filed a permanent injunction featuring several sworn affidavits in an attempt to get Balogun back on the field, which was unsuccessful. Because Balogun was a senior last year, the NCAA ruling ended his college career.

Tuesday, however, Balogun maintained he "definitely did not” play semi-pro football after his 21st birthday and said the NCAA failed to present credible evidence when it decertified him

"It was a weird, unfortunate situation where all the information they had, the NCAA, it was nothing for sure, just what they wanted to believe,” Balogun said. "The NCAA investigated me five times. I was used to it, it was the fifth investigation I had. I thought it was going to blow over. But the fifth time they decertified me. I guess they thought the information they had came from reliable sources. To make a long story short, my story stayed the same. The evidence they had that was supposedly different (the fifth time) was all the same stuff.

"The NCAA, in my opinion, did a lot of backdooring, talking to a lot of people, making those people think they had my best interest. People started talking me up, not knowing what was going on. (The NCAA) took some of that, switched it up. Well, I had affidavits from the majority of people they talked to that said otherwise.

"Something needs to change. The NCAA makes its own rules and they manipulate it however they want.”

The NCAA investigation was prompted by the 2008 BCS National Championship, during which the announcers commented on Balogun being a former semi-pro football player before attending Lackawanna (Pa.) Junior College and ultimately OU.

Documentation in Balogun’s injunction filling claims that an official from Florida State’s compliance office contacted the Big 12 Conference and OU and suggested they investigate Balogun’s eligibility.

Florida State officials were familiar with the rule since they had a player, wide receiver Corey Surrency, whose career was cut short after it was found earlier in 2008 he had played a season of semi-pro football past the age of 21.

"The night we get back from the national championship, I get a call from (OU’s) compliance office saying they’re investigating me again because Florida State called and asked how did this guy have eligibility because an announcer during the game said something about me playing semi-pro ball,” Balogun recalled.

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